9.24.09 update: Radicals appeal to SCOTUS: help Kaufman here
Case dismissed in Texas court. Freedom of the press, freedom of speech, and bloggers’ rights at issue.
(Dallas, TX 6.28.09) The lawsuit and restraining order that were filed against the Chairman of Americans Against Hate (AAH) Joe Kaufman by seven Dallas-area Muslim organizations, in October 2007, were thrown out this past week by the State of Texas Court of Appeals, Second District of Texas Fort Worth.
The seven plaintiffs included the Muslim American Society (MAS), which the U.S. government has called a front for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, and three Islamic centers owned by the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT), an organization that was named a co-conspirator in the 2007/2008 Holy Land Foundation (HLF) Hamas financing trial.
The groups claimed in the lawsuit that Kaufman had written an article for FrontPage Magazine that libeled them, yet not one of the groups was actually named in the article. It was about the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and its connection to the financing of terrorism overseas. Kaufman, in October 2007, had flown to Texas to lead a demonstration outside an ICNA-sponsored event to expose this information to the public.
Regarding the restraining order or “temporary injunction,” the groups admitted under oath that neither Kaufman nor his group had ever threatened them in any way, shape or form. Indeed, with respect to this case, it was Kaufman and his organization that received a threat, before Kaufman’s arrival in Texas.
PHILADELPHIA – The Texas Court of Appeals for the Second District on June 25, 2009, dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by several Dallas-area Muslim organizations against Joe Kaufman, an investigative journalist for Front Page Magazine, the founder of Americans Against Hate, and a client of the Middle East Forum’s Legal Project.
The case concerns an article by Kaufman published on September 28, 2007, at FrontPageMag.com, “Fanatic Muslim Family Day” in which he alerted readers to a forthcoming event, “Muslim Family Day,” at the Six Flags Over Texas amusement park hosted by the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Islamic Association of North Texas (IANT). Kaufman called ICNA “a radical Muslim organization that has physical ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and financial ties to Hamas” and stated that, “ICNA has also been involved in the financing of Al-Qaeda.” On October 14, 2007 Kaufman led a lawful and peaceful protest against ICNA outside the amusement park.
Seven Dallas-area Muslim groups responded by filing a lawsuit and restraining order against Mr. Kaufman – despite his article not even mentioning them and his telling the court he had “no knowledge that the majority of the entities even existed.”
In dismissing the lawsuit on appeal, the Court agreed with Kaufman that:
There is simply no indication to a reasonable reader of Kaufman’s article that “those involved” meant the sponsors of the event other than ICNA or IANT, because the article did not inform the reader that there were any such other sponsors.
A Texas Case Asks Whether Bloggers Enjoy Journalist’s Right to Early Appeals
|By JULIE HILDEN
|Wednesday, August 5, 2009|
Ultimately, a new interlocutory-appeal standard, in this area, may need to come from the legislature. But what should the standard be?
I think the best answer is for the legislature to adopt a simple, bright-line standard granting interlocutory appeals in all cases when genuine First Amendment claims or defenses are raised. Cases where free speech is targeted risk having a greater chilling effect on free speech, the longer they drag on, and the more costly they become.
Conversely, a simple rule allowing interlocutory appeals in this limited category of cases could go a long way toward ensuring that free speech is truly free. Had Joe Kaufman not enjoyed the right to an interlocutory appeal, then he (or the magazine, or its website) might have had to pay for a full trial – only to eventually learn that, in the view of the appeals court, his adversaries had no case.
It’s worth having some early appeals occur, in order to ensure that free speech, for some, does not carry a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars – the likely cost of a trial. And it’s worth it whether the speaker is a Pulitzer-Prize winner, or a kid in high school trying out his or her constitutional rights for the first time.