Legal Magazine

New York Times Falsely Claims That Legal Schnauzer Blog Has Generated "Many Defamation Lawsuits"

Posted on the 07 April 2014 by Rogershuler @RogerShuler

The New York Times building

A photo caption in a New York Times article about my incarceration states that the Legal Schnauzer blog has "prompted many defamation lawsuits." The statement is false and comes on top of other inaccuracies that we have previously noted in the story.
The January 12 article, by reporter Campbell Robertson, inaccurately states that I was "unwilling to hire a lawyer" and that I planned to "bring federal criminal charges" against the judge in the defamation case that led to my incarceration.
But the newspaper stepped way out of bounds by hinting on multiple occasions that I have long been the target of defamation lawsuits. The record, however, shows that I had been a professional journalist for 35 years without ever being sued for defamation--until two Republican political figures filed similar lawsuits within roughly one month of each other in August/September 2013.
In short, my experience as the target of defamation lawsuits involves two cases in the span of roughly one month during a 35-year career. That constitutes "many defamation lawsuits"?
Robertson writes as follows in the body of the story:
Mr. Shuler is no stranger to defamation suits, as one might surmise from reading his blog.

That's off the mark, but it's fairly general in nature. The newspaper, however, goes way off track with its photo caption. (Note: Reporters usually do not write photo captions; that duty tends to fall to someone on a newspaper's copy desk.) I only became aware of the caption after being able to check the Web following my release from jail on March 26. Here is how the caption reads:
Posts on Roger Shuler’s blog, Legal Schnauzer, have prompted many defamation suits. His refusal to cooperate in one recent case has led to his being jailed since October and has drawn international attention.

Court records are public records that anyone can check, and they show that Legal Schnauzer has not prompted "many defamation lawsuits." (The part about my "refusal to cooperate" isn't true either. When faced with the lawsuit in question, I filed a motion to quash service after being handed court papers during an unconstitutional traffic stop. That was the first key issue to raise, but I was arrested before I received an order on that issue--or before I was able to raise any other defenses. It's hard, of course, to "cooperate" with the process when you are thrown in jail without access to a computer or even with a real pen to use.)
Natasha Lennard, of Salon, raised questions about inaccuracies in the Times story in an article dated January 14, 2014. From the Salon article:
A New York Times report on Shuler may have underplayed some chilling factors relating to the blogger’s situation. The Times story gave the strong impression that Shuler has regularly engaged in salacious and defamatory writing about Alabama lawmakers and policymakers. Carol Shuler, Roger’s wife, spoke to Salon and claimed this was an erroneous characterization. She noted that her husband had never been sued for defamation, until two suits were filed against him at the same time.

We now know that the Times, in its photo caption, did more than give a strong impression that I had regularly engaged in writing that sparked defamation lawsuits; the newspaper made a flat-out statement to that effect.
The public record shows that the assertion is untrue.

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