6th Circuit rules on defamation portion of Susan B. Anthony List case

In yet another important First Amendment decision emanating from the case of Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld the decision of the trial court granting summary judgment to the Susan B. Anthony List on the defamation claim portion of the litigation.  That decision is here.

As background, the matter commenced with an administrative proceeding before the Ohio Elections Commission, where Congressional Candidate Steve Driehaus claimed that the Susan B. Anthony List made certain false statements in the 2010 Congressional election, namely that Driehaus supported legislation that included the spending of taxpayer monies for abortion.

The Susan B. Anthony List then proceeded into Federal Court, claiming that prosecution under Ohio’s “False Claims” statute violated its First and Fourteenth amendment rights.  That matter eventually ascended to the United States Supreme Court on standing grounds, wherein Plaintiffs prevailed 9-0 and the matter is now proceeding before the 6th Circuit on appeal on the substantive issues.

But Driehaus filed a counterclaim in the Federal action, claiming that the statements of the Susan B. Anthony List defamed him. District Court Judge Timothy Black initially sided with Driehaus in allowing the defamation claim to proceed to trial, but later reversed himself and dismissed the case on Summary Judgment initiated by Susan B. Anthony List.

That ruling on the Summary Judgment was on appeal before the 6th Circuit and is the subject of today’s opinion wherein the 6th Circuit sustained the ruling, but on alternate grounds.

It is an important First Amendment and defamation law pronouncement from the 6th Circuit.