Monday, August 03, 2009

Why Sarah won't sue


Over the weekend, the blogosphere erupted with rumors that Sarah Palin and her husband Todd would soon be filing for divorce.

Now, I personally don't care one way or another. It's not that I'm insensitive; it's just that I figure their marriage is their business and that while a divorce would be (minor, below-the-fold) news, idle speculation and rumor-mongering about the possibility of a divorce isn't news at all. I'm not a big Jerry Springer fan, and that's all this stuff amounts to now that she's out of public office and unlikely ever to be in public office again.

Mrs. Palin, on the other hand, takes this kind of stuff very much to heart, to the extent of threatening legal action against the blogger who set off the gossip gallop.

Set aside for a moment the fact that Mrs. Palin is a public figure (and that her lawyer implicitly admits such in his threatening letter by signing it "for Governor Sarah Palin," even though she's no longer a governor), which makes for a higher bar to get over with defamation suits. It's virtually guaranteed that she won't follow through, and here's why:

Discovery's a bitch.

Truth is an absolute defense against charges of libel or defamation -- and the defendants in such a suit are entitled to attempt to "discover" the truth of what they asserted by conducting what amounts to a legally sanctioned endoscopy on the plaintiffs. Email. Snail mail. Phone logs. Hotel receipts. You name it, the discovery process would give the defendants access to it if the judge agrees that there's the slightest chance that it might bear on the truth or falsehood of the statements they're being sued for making.

Do you think for one minute that "Gryphen" will lack for money or lawyers if the Palins sue? His or her ideological comrades will happily write endless checks to fund the public vivisection of Sarah Palin. And if the "truth" at issue, or some reasonable facsimile thereof, is not "discovered?" You can be damn sure that other juicy tidbits will be, and that those tidbits will be quickly publicized.

Even if the Palins won the suit, they'd finally, forever and completely lose the last of their privacy. They'd also lose what little control they still retain over how their story is told -- which happens to be the biggest asset they have. That may not be fair, but that's the way it is.

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