Sarah Palin, the former Republican Alaska governor, and 2008 vice presidential nominee is in court this week as part of a defamation and libel suit against The New York Times.
It is a lawsuit that Palin is prepared to take to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary, as she acknowledged in comments to Business Insider outside the Manhattan courtroom.
Palin would “consider” appeal to Supreme Court
On Wednesday, after taking the stand to testify in the ongoing trial, Palin was asked by the media outlet if she wanted her suit to result in the overturning of Supreme Court precedent set in the 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan, which set the standard for what constitutes defamation and libel against public figures.
Palin told the outlet that she and her attorneys were taking things “one step at a time” and that she hadn’t yet given much thought to the appeals process that could be pursued if the district court judge rules against her.
“We’ll consider it after this case,” she said of the prospect of taking the case to the Supreme Court on appeal, though she added that she would much prefer to win the case outright and not have to deal with the appeals process.
Falsely linked to a mass shooting
At issue in the suit, according to Business Insider, is a 2017 op-ed published by The New York Times that, at least in its initial version before a hasty correction the next day, had sought to link and blame Palin for the 2011 mass shooting at an event for then-Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) in which the congresswoman was shot and severely injured and others in the crowd were injured or killed.
The Times op-ed had linked Palin to that horrible shooting by way of a fairly typical ad that the conservative politician’s political action committee had produced beforehand that had placed crosshairs over several districts targeted for change in upcoming elections, which included the seat occupied by Giffords.
National Review‘s Kevin Williamson recently wrote that, regardless of what one might think of Palin and/or The New York Times, it is evident that the newspaper defamed and libeled the conservative politician by baselessly linking and blaming her for a horrific and deadly mass shooting.
Noting the high bar set by Times v. Sullivan concerning such claims for public figures, Williamson showed how that standard was easily cleared in this particular instance.
First, the claim was false and unsupported by any facts. Second, it was clearly defamatory and specifically meant to demean and discredit her. Finally, it was also made with “actual malice” toward Palin or, at the very least, featured a “reckless disregard for the truth.”
Prior success for the legal team, justices are open to reassessing standards
As for the notion floated by Business Insider that Palin could potentially take this case to the Supreme Court and possibly end up having Times v. Sullivan reconsidered or overturned, The Washington Post reported on a couple of interesting details that lend support to that theory.
Two of the members of Palin’s legal team, attorneys Kenneth Turkel and Shane Vogt, gained a measure of fame for representing former wrestling star Hulk Hogan in his successful defamation suit against former gossip site Gawker. Also, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch are both on record as being willing and ready to “reassess the high standards that have long been upheld in libel cases to the benefit of journalists,” according to The Post.