December 4, 2023

Tullio Corradini

Trusted Legal Source

Lawyer loses appeal in defamation suit over school mascot

Lawyer loses appeal in defamation suit over school mascot

Delaware’s Supreme Courtroom on Tuesday upheld the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit filed by a Delaware legal professional who was forced to resign from his legislation agency immediately after defending a Pennsylvania large school’s American Indian mascot.

Scott Cousins, a Pennsylvania resident who labored at a Wilmington regulation company, submitted a criticism on his own behalf towards the Unionville-Chadds Ford College District in August 2020 in an unsuccessful effort and hard work to prevent the district from retiring Unionville High School’s mascot. Sports activities groups at the university experienced long been identified as the Indians, a reference to the Lenape Indian tribe, and the emblem showcased the letter “U” draped by a feather. The school’s mascot is now a longhorn steer whose horns form a “U” shape.

Much less than an hour soon after Cousins filed the lawsuit, Rosemary Goodier, an additional Delaware attorney and Pennsylvania resident, sent an e-mail to Cousins’ employer, Bayard, P.A., with a backlink to a relevant information report and a subject matter line saying the lawsuit “reflects poorly” on the business.

“Members of our community want to provide to the firm’s notice the lawsuit submitted by just one of your administrators, Scott Cousins, in opposition to the Unionville Chadds Ford Faculty District,” Goodier wrote.

“In all probability, your administration committee authorized this match, but in the celebration that it did not, we would like to bring it to your consideration,” she included. “We hope you can replicate upon how shockingly racist and tone deaf this suit is…. Our tax pounds and administrative assets will be plunged into countering some shockingly racist statements by Mr Cousins about preserving his white, Christian heritage.”

The following day, according to Cousin’s defamation match towards Goodier, the president of the Bayard business demanded his resignation, although stating he knew Cousins was not a racist. Cousins was instructed that the lawsuit had caused “negative consequences” for the organization, and that the associates experienced missing confidence in him.

Cousins sued Goodier, alleging that she tortiously interfered with his work arrangement with Bayard, defamed him with her e mail, and conspired with other individuals to injure him.

A Top-quality Courtroom judge very last calendar year granted a movement to dismiss filed by Goodier, who argued that the statements in her e mail ended up “constitutionally protected viewpoint.” The judge described the accusations in Goodier’s email as “subjective speculation” or “merely rhetorical hyperbole” that amounted to non-actionable view.

The Supreme Court affirmed the decrease court ruling, declaring that Goodier’s statements can’t be established real or bogus and do not imply that they are supported by undisclosed defamatory details.

As statements relating to an challenge of general public worry, also, they are entitled to heightened To start with Amendment defense and cannot type the predicate of the plaintiff’s tort claims,” Justice Gary Traynor wrote in a 48-site impression.

“It is not in just our purview to adjudicate the longstanding controversy encompassing mascots and symbols that use American Indian iconography. But that the recognition of these mascots and symbols is controversial and has been for many years is scarcely topic to question,” Traynor wrote, even though also noting that the definition of what is “racist” is a subject matter of significant disagreement among the public.

“It suffices that we conclude that Goodier’s statements, on their deal with, are unable to reasonably be interpreted as stating precise facts,” he spelled out. “Ordinary viewers of her e-mail, as an alternative, would realize her adjectival use of the word ‘racist’ and her reference to Cousins’ ‘white, Christian heritage’ as expressing her subjective interpretation of the tone and objectives of the Unionville Lawsuit. That interpretation, in our watch, is not, without having additional, objectively verifiable as accurate or phony.”

Specified that Goodier’s statements were being safeguarded speech, they simply cannot serve as the foundation for Cousins’ tortious interference claim, the justices also ruled.

“We provide no impression on the merits of the controversy underlying the Unionville Lawsuit. Nor do we go judgment on the civility of the means Goodier chose to air her grievance about the lawsuit,” Traynor concluded. “Our worry here is confined to regardless of whether her response gives rise to actionable state tort statements in mild of the Free of charge Speech Clause of the 1st Amendment. We keep that it does not and as a result affirm the judgment of the Outstanding Court docket.”