The victory belongs to the First Amendment, not Albero.
Needless to say, I am not a big fan of Joe Albero’s blog. However the lawsuit filed against Albero by former Mayor of Salisbury, Barrie Tilghman, was nonsense from the start. Why it ever went to trial, I haven’t a clue. The legal standard for proving defamation against public figures set by the Supreme Court in N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan and succeeding cases is very high. The term of art is “Malice” and contains two vital points. The plaintiff has to prove that the defendant printed material knowing that it was a lie or that the defendant acted with reckless disregard of the truth. In other words, the plaintiff has to prove what was going on in the defendant’s brain or that the defendant’s behavior was so outrageous and reckless that the plaintiff has the right to recover.
It is not impossible for a public figure to recover damages but it is nearly so.
Mr. Albero printed numerous attacks on his blog against the former Mayor, many of them tasteless and personal. However he also printed material that was not being covered by the local print organ of the Corporate Media, the Daily Times. The Mayor sued claiming defamation.
The court found for the defendant. It is the public’s right to know that is ensconced in the First Amendment, not Albero’s desire to aggravate a personal and political opponent, and certainly not the Mayor’s wish to suppress comment on her performance in office. If there was one nugget of useful information in this spit fight that otherwise would not have not been known, the public wins. Otherwise it was just that, a spit fight, which provided the occasional moment of high glee.