Here’s why Kavanaugh should ignore Trump's 'sue for libel' advice: First Amendment expert

Here’s why Kavanaugh should ignore Trump's 'sue for libel' advice: First Amendment expert
By Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian -, Public Domain,

A report by the New York Times has reopened an old wound: Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s bitterly divisive confirmation hearings. The Times has reported that, in 2018, the FBI didn’t fully investigate an allegation by Kavanaugh accuser Deborah Ramirez that he thrust his penis at her at a party when they were students at Yale University in the 1980s. And Eugene Volokh, a legal and First Amendment expert who teaches at UCLA, told Law & Crime why he believes it would be a bad idea for Kavanaugh to file a lawsuit for libel or defamation.

Volokh told Law & Crime that in libel cases, there is a high bar: the plaintiff had knowledge that the statement was false or at least was likely false. Further, Volokh said, negative stories tend to disappear from the news — but lawsuits have a way of drawing attention to the allegations.

“This too shall pass, as all news stories do,” Volokh told Law & Crime.

In other words, launching a lawsuit would draw more attention to the allegations in the Times article — after the media had moved to discussing other things. And in the end, Kavanaugh would have an uphill climb when it came to proving libel.


Understand the importance of honest news ?

So do we.

The past year has been the most arduous of our lives. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to be catastrophic not only to our health - mental and physical - but also to the stability of millions of people. For all of us independent news organizations, it’s no exception.

We’ve covered everything thrown at us this past year and will continue to do so with your support. We’ve always understood the importance of calling out corruption, regardless of political affiliation.

We need your support in this difficult time. Every reader contribution, no matter the amount, makes a difference in allowing our newsroom to bring you the stories that matter, at a time when being informed is more important than ever. Invest with us.

Make a one-time contribution to Alternet All Access, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.

Click to donate by check.

DonateDonate by credit card
Donate by Paypal
{{ }}

Don't Sit on the Sidelines of History. Join Alternet All Access and Go Ad-Free. Support Honest Journalism.