|Full opinion online, here.|
Congratulations can be sent to Johnny Northside, via blog comments to his post, here. [UPDATE: Hoff added another post, here.]
Congratulations can be sent to Paul Godfread, at his intellectual property law firm, this contact page.
Read the opinion. It speaks for itself. I will not bore readers with commentary. For commentary, helpful not boring, this link.
Update: Strib, Abby Simons, online reporting of the victory for free speech; here.
Simons of Strib has actively covered the case over time; this Google.
Hoff put a comment here reminding us of another freedom of speech situation; the Pussy Riot arrest and trial and sentence for what was a brief protest against the head of state in Russia, Putin, and in favor of separation of church and state with the contention being the Orthodox Church hierarchy was too close to and supportive of Putin.
The three young women at risk for exercising public protest speech were put in a cage in the courtroom when tried, and my understanding is they were not allowed a jury trial but that findings of facts were made by a judge and not a panel of citizens.
The Pussy Riot story has much web coverage and you can track down stories via your own web search. However, as a gesture of gratitude for what Hoff and Godfread and the amicus press association achieved, I list the two links Hoff placed on his blog, here and here. UPDATE: Guardian, here.
If people can win cases in our State and nation on basic freedom of speech or freedom to protest the government or workers or politicians in government it is good; but the reassurance of a win here must be tempered by noting that the freedoms here are in some ways greater than elsewhere in the world, and that strengthening freedoms of citizens everywhere else we can affect is something that cannot fail to help us in protecting and strengthening our own freedom, here.
Additional reporting on the Johnny Northside freedom of speech victory on appeal - by reporter Olivia LaVecchia of CityPages, Brian Lambert as the lead item in today's "Glean" at MinnPost, and a website maintained by Carol Overland, a Red Wing lawyer, here. Also, Media Law Minnesota, MPR here and here, First Amendment Center, grudgingly here, and JD Journal - Nothing but the Truth. The list may not be exhaustive, but it is comprehensive. Apologies to any writer overlooked.
The City Pages report is worth reading, it has a link about Jerry Moore, (the plaintiff against Hoff), and it does point out that though unlikely, the Minnesota Supreme Court, if petitioned, might review the lower appellate opinion - with certiorari review being discretionary with the court and not mandatory. I cannot see any real reason that cert would be granted in this case unless there is a Supreme Court mood to lessen speech rights of citizens, which is a mood which I expect does not exist.
If you follow the Moore link City Pages provides, and the links from that older reporting (e.g., here), you can see how City Pages pressed a Moore employment situation much as Hoff did, but Moore and his lawyer Jill Clark chose not to go after the deep pocket with resources to fight, City Pages, and instead jumped on Hoff thinking him an easier target.
Had Hoff not been lucky enough to get Godfread involved at trial as he did, the strategy of beating up on Hoff might have worked, as it appeared to have, at the trial court level. And getting a trial court decision overturned on appeal is far from a simple matter. It was exceptionally fine lawyering, and a righteous position from the outset, that gained the appellate victory.
IN CLOSING: One last thing of interest, in the trial court opinion the trial judge noted the testimony of a North Minneapolis resident named Donald Allen, (the Donald Allen reported of here and here), who started out as a codefendant but settled and switched hats to be plaintiff Moore's key witness against Hoff; with the appellate opinion noting a basic disagreement of fact in trial testimony:
Donald Allen, an acquaintance of Hoff’s, testified that, after this [challenged Johnny Northside blog] post was published, Hoff called him and asked him to send an e-mail to the University of Minnesota to try to get Moore terminated. Hoff denies making this phone call to Allen or any phone call seeking Moore’s termination. Whether or not he was asked to do so, Allen sent an e-mail to the university that stated: [...]
With much time intervening between happenings and time of trial my guess would be Hoff's testimony was spot-on true but Donald Allen misrecollected, (in all innocence and without intent to hurt Hoff), and although the trial judge deemed Allen testimony to be evidence credibly in support of the jury verdict, the appellate court opinied:
[W]e conclude that the district court’s basis for imposing liability on Hoff is too broadly asserted to assure that Hoff’s constitutional rights are protected. By concluding that the “trial record as a whole” supported the jury’s verdict, the district court did not adequately identify Hoff’s behavior that was separate and distinct from his protected speech. The district court pointed to Allen’s testimony to show that there was evidence of interference by Hoff separate and distinct from his blog post, but we conclude that this evidence is insufficient to independently support the jury’s verdict. Hoff’s communication with Allen is too intertwined with Hoff’s constitutionally protected blog post to accurately characterize it as independent tortious conduct. Hoff’s information about Moore’s involvement in mortgage fraud was the primary reason for his communication (through Allen) to the University of Minnesota. The fact that Hoff’s underlying goal in conveying this information was to get Moore fired does nothing to disentangle the protected statement from any tortious conduct.
Being in a position where the findings below could not be overridden, i.e., Allen's veracity and ability to accurately recollect being beyond challenge on appeal, the appellate court took a very far reaching step of expressly saying not only protected speech is exempt from liability for the claimed tort, but that other activity argued as tortiously interfering with a contract and an expectancy that is inseparably intertwined and "entangled" with the protected speech also gains protection; precedent being NAACP v. Claiborne Hardware Co., 458 U.S. 886, 933-34, 102
S. Ct. 3409, 3436 (1982).