#ncga: The In-TIM-idation game

lawyerupCan’t take the heat?  Call your lawyers.

We reported some time back that House Speaker Tim Moore had — with his massive campaign warchest — retained the services of a bit-time New Yawk City law firm.  It appears Pat Gannon and Raleigh’s The Insider have figured out WHY:

House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said Wednesday evening that his re-election campaign is paying a New York City law firm to prepare a possible libel lawsuit against a North Carolina media outlet. In a phone interview with the Insider, Moore declined to name the media organization.[…] 
We hear WBTV in Charlotte — the employer of investigate bulldog Nick Ochsner — is the target.  MORE: 
“We are in discussions with the other party and their attorney,” Moore said. “It is an action where I am the one pursuing an action potentially for libel.”
In general, libel refers to a published false statement that damages a person’s reputation. Moore’s campaign has paid the Big Apple firm Carter, Ledyard & Milburn LLP more than $22,000 since January, according to campaign disclosure reports filed with the State Board of Elections.SPEAKERMOOREPORTRAIT

Asked what those payments were for, Moore said the possible libel case. Carter, Ledyard & Milburn is a general practice law firm headquartered on Wall Street since 1854, according to its LinkedIn page. Moore said his attorney is John Walsh, whom he described as a “preeminent libel attorney in the United states.” A biography for Walsh on the firm’s website lists his areas of practice as “Media and First Amendment Law counseling and litigation, including libel, privacy, and commercial speech issues.”

Moore is finishing his second year as House speaker and plans to seek another term at the House’s helm. He is unopposed in November. Moore added that before any money was spent on the possible suit, he sought guidance from the State Board of Elections, which determined it was appropriate to use campaign funds for the libel case. “The context of the libel lawsuit that I’m considering has to do with my elected office,” he said.

Just like Jason Saine’s suits, huh?  MORE: 
Moore’s House campaign raised $220,000 from March through June, leaving it with more than $1.1 million on hand as of June 30. The campaign spent $84,000 in those four months, meaning roughly a quarter of Moore’s spending went to the law firm.
So, everyone in Raleigh is A-OK with Tim Moore spending money from his campaign fund — stocked by lobbyists and all kinds of other special interests — to pursue a personal vendetta against a member of the press who aired something he didn’t like? MOOREHOUSE04-NE-080515-TEL
What about the whole ”public figure” issue?  Isn’t the press protected from this type of intimidation by public officials? Here’s one attorney’s analysis: 

North Carolina’s definition of libel is considered to be rather broad, and it covers statements so offensive that are automatically classified as defamatory. It is also assumed that they damage the plaintiff’s reputation, and proving in court that harm was actually done when the statements were issued is not required.

In North Carolina, a statement is considered to be libelous if it does any of these things:
? maintains that an individual is guilty of a serious crime;
? claims that an individual has an infectious disease;
? attempts to discredit a person in their profession or industry; or
? in some other way, subjects an individual to public disgrace, contempt or ridicule.

Actual malice and defamation casesmooresmile

A private figure plaintiff who brings a defamation lawsuit is required to establish that, at the very least, the defendant has shown disregard for the veracity of those statements that are alleged to be defamatory. In addition, public officials and public figures are required to show that the defendant was motivated by “actual malice” when those statements were published.[…] 

If the target here truly is Ochsner and WBTV, it sounds like Moore and his team will have to prove malice.  That might be tough.  As we reported before, Ochsner has a track record as a former College Republicans official.  So, there goes the partisan angle. 

Dallas Woodhouse was even rolled out to claim Ochsner performed a vengeance hit on Moore for not hiring him.  The problem?  Moore reached out to hire Ochsner, but Ochsner turned him down.  (And he had the documentation to prove it.)

moore1So, it sounds like there might be a good case against Moore for malice.  Anger at being turned down by a candidate he sought out.  Anger over reporting something Moore didn’t like.  (IF this is really all about WBTV and Ochsner.) 

Perhaps Team Moore is hoping the corporate suits at WBTV will panic and put a leash on Ochsner.  But, so far, it sounds like ol’ Nick has bosses that back him.  And, from what I’ve seen, his reporting has been pretty good and well-documented. 

That $22,000 sent to the NY law firm COULD have been used to help with the House Republican campaign effort.  I understand that effort is hurting for cash these days.

And, are GOP bigwigs actually excited about the possibility of Tim Moore going under oath in a libel proceeding?  I bet there are a lot of attorneys out there who would LOVE to question that man under oath.