Jury Rules Against Palin in NYT Libel Lawsuit

Federal judge had already decided to dismiss case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2022 4:18 PM CST
Updated Feb 15, 2022 4:36 PM CST
Judge Is Throwing Out Palin's NYT Libel Suit
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin speaks briefly to reporters as she leaves a courthouse in New York, Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Update: The jury ruled against Sarah Palin in her libel lawsuit against the New York Times Tuesday—unaware that the judge had already decided to dismiss the case because Palin's attorneys had failed to show there had been "actual malice" from the Times. US District Judge Jed Rakoff had allowed deliberations to continue so a verdict could be considered if the case goes to appeal. "Your job was to decide the facts, which you’ve now done. My job is to decide the law," he told the jury Tuesday, per the Washington Post. "And I've concluded as a matter of law that the defendants are not liable, too." Palin attorney Kenneth Turkel said the former Alaska governor's team is "obviously disappointed" and an appeal is likely. Our story from Monday follows:

An unexpected development in Sarah Palin's libel lawsuit against the New York Times: The federal judge overseeing the case said Monday he's planning to dismiss the lawsuit—but he will allow the jury to continue deliberating. US District Judge Jed Rakoff said Palin's lawyers had failed to prove that the Times had knowingly published false information about the former Alaska governor in a 2017 editorial or acted with a reckless disregard for the truth, the Hill reports. The jury is now in its second day of deliberations. Rakoff said he would allow deliberations to continue because an appeal seems inevitable, and the appeals court "would greatly benefit from knowing how the jury would decide."

Rakoff said Palin's attorneys hadn't proved the "actual malice" standard a 1964 Supreme Court decision set for libel cases involving public figures. Palin's lawsuit was filed in response to a 2017 editorial that linked her campaign to the 2011 mass shooting in Arizona that injured Rep. Gabby Giffords. A correction was published the next day and the Times' lawyers said former editorial page editor James Bennet had made an honest mistake. "I don’t think a reasonable juror could conclude that Mr. Bennet either knew the statements were false or that he thought the statements were false and he recklessly disregarded that high probability," the judge said Monday, per Politico.

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The editorial accused Palin's campaign of inciting political violence with a map that showed Giffords and 19 other Democrats in crosshairs, though there was no evidence the Arizona shooter had seen the map. Rakoff said that while the evidence presented didn't meet the high bar set for libel cases, he was "hardly surprised Ms. Palin brought a lawsuit," the AP reports. "I think this is an example of very unfortunate editorializing on the part of the Times," the judge said. (Observers say Palin may have hurt her case with testimony Thursday.)

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