Moreover, plaintiffs' common law libel claim, and the assault claims arising out of the alleged "raid" in Lafayette Park, are barred by the District of Columbia statute of limitations which explicitly provides only one year in which to file actions for these and other torts of this nature, including plaintiffs' claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress. The limitations period expired in july of 1986. These flaws prove fatal to plaintiffs' entire action against the Times defendants.
critical of plaintiffs and of their chosen form, substance, and location of expression. Plaintiffs' defamation allegation rests on "misrepresentations" about plaintiffs purportedly contained in those publications.
plaintiffs' conspiracy claims under 42 U.S.C, §§ 1983 and 1985(3).
Under the First Amendment there is no such thing as a false idea. However pernicious an opinion may seem, we depend for its correction not on the conscience of judges and juries but on the competition of other ideas.
Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc,, 418 U.S. at 339-40. Accordingly, statements of opinion enjoy absolute protection under the First Amendment. Ollman v.Evans, 750 F.2d at 975.
750 F.2d at 978. The distinction between the two, however, has been understood to present a question of law to be resolved through analysis of the totality of circumstances surrounding the statement itself. Id. at 978-79. To aid courts in discerning opinion from fact, The Ollman plurality established a four-factor test. Those factors include 1) whether the "common usage or meaning" of the statements is precise or ambiguous, since readers are more likely to recognize ambiguous statements as opinion; 2) whether the statement is verifiable, since opinion is more likely than fact to be unverifiable; 3) what is the linguistic context of the statement in the publication; and 4) what is the broad context in which the statement is published. Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d at 979-84.
that plaintiffs' signs are "a continuing insult, mocking the true intent behind the precious right of citizens to petition the government for the redress of grievances." Id.. at ¶ 47, Finally, plaintiffs deny that they are "' bum[s),' ... 'pitiable lunatic[s],' 'deluded,' or 'insane,'" Id. at ¶ 50. Plaintiffs conclude that:
[their] continuous presence in front of the White House is a fact which existed. Plaintiffs allege that the nature of that fact was of broad public concern, and that defendants intentionally distorted that fact.
Plaintiffs' Opposition at 14.
term in the realm of political debate." Ollman v. Evans, 790 F.2d at 980, quoting Buckley v. Littell, 539 F.2d at 893. Because of this imprecision, There can be no "clear method of verification with which to evaluate" the truth or falsity of terms used by Times commentators to describe and to criticize plaintiffs. Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d at 981, citing Buckley Y. Littell, supra.
[t]he reasonable reader who peruses [a] column on the editorial or Op-Ed page is fully aware that the statements found there are not "hard" news like those printed on the front page or elsewhere in the news sections of the newspaper. Readers expect that columnists will make strong statements, sometimes phrased in a polemical manner that would hardly be considered balanced or fair elsewhere in the newspaper.
Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d at 986, citing National Rifle Association v. Dayton Newspaper, Inc., 555 F, Supp. 1299, 1309 (S.D. Ohio 1983). It is true that editorials can and do contain statements of fact and that there is no blanket First Amendment privilege for every statement appearing on a
newspaper's editorial or Op-Ed page. See Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d at 983 n,33. Nevertheless, the linguistic context of the statements challenged here, see. e.g., Complaint, Exhibits 12, 13 & 15, as well as their publication in a forum whose traditional function is broadly understood to be the communication of opinion, compel the conclusion that the language of the Times' harsh descriptions of plaintiffs was "being used in a metaphorical, exaggerated or even fantastic sense." Ollman v. Evans, 750 F.2d at 982.
U.S. 264, 284-87 (1974). In this atmosphere of charged political debate, even the newspaper's description of plaintiffs as "insane" persons and as "pitiable lunatics" reflects opinion and not fact -- exaggerated epithet, not factual allegation.
profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open, and that it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks.
New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270 (1964).
issue here were construed to communicate arguably false statements of fact rather than pere expressions of opinion, those statements still would not constitute "libel" or "defamation" such as would allow plaintiffs to maintain this action against The Washington Times.