Appeals court resurrects Palin's defamation lawsuit against NY Times

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that Sarah Palin can move forward with her defamation lawsuit against The New York Times, two years after a lower court judge dismissed the case.

Palin had sued the newspaper for defamation over an editorial that tied an ad from the former Alaska governor and GOP vice presidential nominee to the 2011 shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (R-Ariz.).

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The three-judge appeals panel found that Palin’s case had wrongly been dismissed and that her lawsuit “plausibly states a claim for defamation and may proceed to full discovery.”

They sent the matter back down to the Southern District of New York for further proceedings.

"We are disappointed in the decision and intend to continue to defend the action vigorously," The New York Times said in response.

Palin filed the suit after The New York Times ran a June 2017 editorial in response to the shooting at a GOP congressional baseball practice that left several people, including then-House Majority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseManchin: Trump has 'golden opportunity' on gun reforms Sunday shows - Trump's Epstein conspiracy theory retweet grabs spotlight Sanders: Trump doesn't 'want to see somebody get shot' but 'creates the climate for it' MORE (R-La.), wounded.

The editorial stated that Palin’s political action committee had run an ad depicting Democratic lawmakers with their faces under crosshairs. The ad had shown their districts instead.

The Times quickly issued a correction, pulling the parts of the editorial linking the Palin ad and the Giffords shooting.

“An earlier version of this editorial incorrectly stated that a link existed between political incitement and the 2011 shooting of Representative Gabby Giffords. In fact, no such link was established,” the correction read.

Palin in her original suit alleged that the newspaper falsely accused her of "inciting a mass shooting at a political event in January 2011” and ran a claim it “knew to be false.” 

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, a Clinton appointee, had held an initial hearing on evidence in the case, but dismissed the lawsuit. He found that Palin was not able to meet the legal standard of showing malice toward a public figure, as needed in defamation cases.

Palin then requested to file another version of the lawsuit, which Rakoff denied. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals decision on Tuesday will allow her to do so.

The appellate judges wrote in their ruling that Rakoff’s use of the hearing violated the federal rules of procedure for courts.

They pointed to the judge using the testimony of Times editorial page editor James Bennet in making his ruling, while not giving Palin the opportunity to conduct her own questioning of Bennet and use it in her lawsuit.

And they said that they were not deciding whether Palin’s claims had merit, but rather deciding that it cleared the legal bar needed for the lawsuit to proceed at this stage of the case.

“Therefore, at the pleading stage, we are satisfied that Palin has met her burden to plead facts giving rise to the plausible inference that Bennet published the allegedly defamatory editorial with actual malice,” the opinion states.

Updated at 10:14 a.m.