NEW YORK—Judge Jed Rakoff struck a blow to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times on Feb. 14 when he ruled in favor of a motion by the defense that essentially nullifies a jury’s verdict in her favor should it come back with one.
Officially known as Federal Rule of Civil Procedure No. 50, or the “Rule 50 Motion,” the motion states that the plaintiff has to have sufficient evidence for every element it needs to prove.
In this case, the element in question is “actual malice.” Proving this one is the most difficult of the four being considered by the court.
The trial teetered on a razor’s edge all morning, as Rakoff and lawyers representing both sides debated the motion. As it was during witness testimony, the definition of the word “incitement” was scrutinized again, this time reading from two dictionaries.
The jury was not made aware of the motion or its ruling, and continued to deliberate for the entire day. Rakoff is intentionally having them reach a verdict so an appeals court will benefit from both decisions. He said the case will “inevitably” wind up before one.
Judge ‘Not Happy’
Rakoff announced his ruling in the afternoon. “I’m not altogether happy to be making this decision,” he said. “My job is to apply the law. The law here sets a very high standard for actual malice. The court finds that standard has not been met.”
This ruling doesn’t throw the case out and should the jury come back with a verdict in favor of the defendants, it has no impact.
Soon after Rakoff made the announcement, the defense lawyers, plus a representative from The New York Times, shook hands and patted each other on the back.
“What he just did there was very strange, taking the verdict from the jury,” Palin told The Epoch Times.
Katie Sullivan, a Brooklyn-based lawyer, told The Epoch Times: “I think [Rakoff] applied the law correctly, but the laws are out of step with common sense and common decency.
“Today’s decision almost gives The Times a license to lie about a public figure.”
Should the case go through a successful appeals process, it may then go to the Supreme Court, which, in theory, could change the way the media operates.
“Something’s got to change,” Palin said regarding that.
During the course of the day, the jury asked for transcripts of testimony from witnesses Ross G. Douthat, a New York Times columnist, and James Bennet, the editor and co-writer of the editorial at the heart of the lawsuit.
Palin wore a black motorcycle jacket made of distressed leather with a silver beaded eagle on the back, along with black pants with zippered pockets and her recognizable updo.
The jury hadn’t reached a verdict by the end of the day and will continue to deliberate on Feb. 15.