On July 6th, 2018 former Republican U.S. Senate candidate Gerald Smith filed a lawsuit against me. The case regarded this post that I wrote regarding Smith's filing to run for the office.
The brief post in question consisted of five sentences that related back to words that Smith's own words, both on Facebook and his now-defunct website.
Smith requested that the post be removed from Red Maryland twice shortly after the story was posted. Smith subsequently turned down opportunities to share his views on Red Maryland, declining to submit a candidate survey and declining to participate in the Red Maryland Senate Primary debate on June 21st.
Smith was seeking $6 million in damages; over $1 million in "lost salary" from not being elected to the U.S. Senate, and $5 million in "punitive damages."
Smith's case centered around the idea that I was writing his opinions with malice, and offered a theory that I was intentionally maligning Smith in an effort to help Republican candidate Tony Campbell due to the fact that Campbell worked as a lecturer at Towson University, the same institution where Red Maryland contributor Dr. Rick Vatz works.
In 2018 Red Maryland did not endorse a candidate for U.S. Senate, nor did I endorse a candidate either publicly or in my column in the Capital.
Attorney and fellow Red Maryland editor Greg Kline filed the following brief on my behalf.
A motion for dismissal or for summary judgment in favor of me was held on November 14th. 2018 in Annapolis. Following the hearing, Circuit Court Judge Allison Asti granted the motion for summary judgment in favor of me.
Judge Asti found that opinions about candidates for public office are constitutionally privileged and that an opinion cannot be given with malice if it is based on true facts.
Smith appealed the case to Maryland's Court of Special Appeals, which again ruled in my favor.
There are other humorous anecdotes about this case that I am declining to share right now. I’ll save them for my book…
Other than hopefully recouping my costs from Smith, I look forward to putting this comical episode behind me.
Special thanks to my longtime Red Maryland Partner Greg Kline for representing me in this nonsense.
I have always taken free speech and protected speech seriously. And this is why. Because too often, candidates and politicians want to use the courts to censor negative things being said about them. We've seen this with Delegate Rick Impallaria's lawsuits against Republican activists, and we are seeing it again in Montgomery County where former County Party Chairman Alex Bush is suing the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Maryland Young Republicans.
All of these lawsuits were or are wrongheaded.
Unfortunately, politicians on both sides of the aisle think it should be easier for the media or average citizens to be forced to pay for their free speech. They want to force people to be afraid of speaking out or voicing a negative opinion to suffer or silence or suffer in the courts. They want stricter laws that make it easier for courts to render judgments against the media and average citizens for saying something that a politician doesn't like.
And in my view, that's un-American.
I hope no writer and no activist or any political persuasion has to put up with the crap that I and others have had to put up with in dealing with frivolous suits like this one.