Rogers v. Superior Court, No CV-21-0001-PR (February 1, 2022) (J. Bolick) https://www.azcourts.
First amendment protects speech in political advertisement implicating nonpolitical third party.
Defendant ran for U.S. House of Representatives running a political ad disparaging her opponent and the modeling agency where he worked. The radio ad, among other things, stated, “Smith is a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking.” The ad did not identify Smith's employer the Young Modeling Agency [Young] and plaintiff here. Young sued for defamation. The defendant moved for summary judgment which was denied by the trial court but was reversed on Special Action by the Arizona Court of Appeals. The Arizona Supreme Court vacated the court of appeals decision and reversed and remanded the trial court.
To allow a defamation action to proceed where
the publication is a political advertisement directed
at an opposing candidate, where the plaintiff is
unnamed in the publication, where the challenged
statement is conceded to be true, and where the alleged
offending implication is not obvious, would not only
chill free speech in this case but also open the floodgates
to litigants who are aggrieved by perceived indignities
visited upon them by politicians.
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