Obsidian Finance Group v. Cox, No. 12-35238 (9th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Plaintiffs filed a defamation suit against defendant where defendant published blog posts on several websites that she created accusing plaintiffs of fraud, corruption, money-laundering, and other illegal activities. The court joined its sister circuits in concluding that the protections of the First Amendment did not turn on whether the defendant was a trained journalist, formally affiliated with traditional news entities, engaged in conflict-of-interest disclosure, went beyond just assembling others' writings, or tried to get both sides of a story; therefore, the court held that the Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc.'s negligence requirement for private defamation actions was not limited to cases with institutional media defendants; because defendant's blog post addressed a matter of public concern, even assuming that Gertz was limited to such speech, the district court should have instructed the jury that it could not find defendant liable for defamation unless it found that she acted negligently; the district court also should have instructed the jury that it could not award presumed damages unless it found that defendant acted with actual malice; the court rejected defendant's argument that plaintiffs are public officials; and the court found no error in the district court's application of the Unelko Corp. v. Rooney test and rejected plaintiffs' cross-appeal. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.