Saturday, April 02, 2005

internet 1, dumbasses 0

This doesn't change my writing style any, but I guess it is nice to know that there are legal precedents in place if someone gets their knickers in a twist over something I wrote:

It's not too often that the courts get to pass judgment on the really important issues of our time. But in its March 24 decision in the case of Vogel v. Felice, the California Court of Appeal has determined that calling someone a "dumb ass" does not give rise to liability for defamation. "A statement that [a person] is a 'dumb ass,' even 'first among dumb asses,' communicates no factual proposition susceptible of proof or refutation."

'First among dumb asses'. Dammit, why didn't I think of that?

Evan Brown discusses the reasons the case went in the defendant's favor:

...the claim that being called a "dumb ass" was defamatory failed as a matter of law for the inability of such a statement to be proved or disproved. Secondly, because the plaintiffs were public figures, they had the burden of proving the challenged statements were false. The court found that plaintiffs had not provided enough detail to show the "substantial falsity" of the claims.

The plaintiffs in this case were both running for public office, and were unable to prove to the court's satisfaction that they were not, in fact, dumbasses. This sets a great precedent for future elections: "You claim that you are not a dumbass... can you prove it?"

This reminds me of my grandfather... once we were stopped at a crosswalk when someone crossing the street waved at him; my grandfather muttered something and nodded recognition. As we drove off he said to me "you know, with very little work at all, that guy could be a prize horse's ass".

(Comments that my disposition must be hereditary are low-hanging fruit. But feel free to otherwise exercise your first amendment rights.)

[via DRT]