Accessibility And Equity of The Legal

Introduction

Defamation is one of the common lawsuits that are normally brought before the justice system. Defamation can be defined as a false statement, either verbal or written, made by an individual or institution about another individual or institution that hurts the reputation of the defamed individual or institution. Defamation lawsuits have increased significantly since the advent of the internet. For example, social media has made it easier for people to make defamatory statements. This is because social media allows one to instantly publish a statement which can reach many people. As such, defamation cases as a result of posts made on social media platforms have been on the rise. However, despite the change in the platform used to make defamatory statements, the justice system has always treated such cases equally. The justice system normally analyses the content of a statement to determine whether it is true or not and whether it has hurt the reputation of the individual or institution it was made about.

While the justice system has always claimed impartiality in handling any case, it has been argued that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy who can afford the substantial costs of bringing a defamation claim and can afford to take the risk of being held liable for the other party’s costs if they lose their claim. In this paper, there will be a critical evaluation of the argument that the Law of Defamation only benefits the very wealthy.

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The Law of Defamation

The Law of Defamation is a tort law which is aimed to prevent people from making false statements against others. The Law of Defamation states that it is legally wrong for one to make a false statement against another individual which hurts the reputation of the individual against which the statement has been made. In order for one to win a defamation case, they must show that someone made a false statement which caused injury mostly to their reputation. In most cases, defamation cases attract fines and compensation for defamed. However, in some cases, defamation has attracted imprisonment. This is normally in situations which involve powerful individuals such as politicians who use defamation to silence critics. For example, in 2015, Burmese writer Maung Saungkha was given a six month prison sentence for posting a defamatory statement on Facebook against the then Myanmar’s president Thein Sein.

Analysis of whether the Law of Defamation benefits the very wealthy It is hard to determine whether the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy without examining defamation cases. There have many defamation cases brought up against individuals or institutions over time. One of them is Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case. The plaintiffs were George Elias IV, Stephen Hadford, and Ross Fowler. Elias IV, Hadford, and Fowler were graduate students of University of Virginia and members of Phi Kappa Psi fraternity when an article in Rolling Stone magazine was published claiming that members of the Phi Kappa Psi had gang-raped a certain woman who the article called Jackie. However, the article turned out to be false prompting the three individuals, Elias, Hadford, and Fowler to sue Rolling Stone magazine for defamation.
There is little that is known about Elias, Hadford, and Fowler other than that they were plaintiff in this Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case. There is no information concerning their wealth status. However, it is evident that they were not very wealthy since such information would be in the public domain. In addition, the three individuals filed the lawsuit against Rolling Stone in 2015, only two years after graduation. This implies that at the time of filing the lawsuit, the three could have not have generated enough wealth to be considered very wealthy.

One may argue that the three appellants come from wealthy backgrounds. However, most of the wealthy families are known and the information about them is in the public domain. This indicates that Elias IV, Hadford, and Fowler are ordinary individuals yet they filed a defamation case against the Rolling Stone magazine, an institution that has significant resources. That three ordinary individuals brought a defamation lawsuit against an institution indicates that the Law of Defamation does not benefit only the rich rather it serves all individuals.
Another defamation lawsuit is the Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd case. The plaintiff in the case, Rebel Wilson, is an Australian-born actress who brought a defamation case against Bauer Media for publishing articles which alleged that Wilson lied about her name, life events, age, and upbringing. Wilson is significantly wealthy with her4 net worth being 16 million dollars. Based on her status, and the outcome of the case, it can be argued that her status may have influenced the ruling in her favour. In addition, it can also be argued that Wilson pursued the case against Bauer Media because she could afford it. However, while her wealth made it possible for Wilson to file a lawsuit against Bauer Media and follow it up to the end, it is not proof enough that Wilson brought up the defamation claim simply because she is wealthy and can afford it. In addition, the case of Elias IV, Hadford, and Fowler indicates that it is not only the wealthy who can file a defamation case.

Monroe v Hopkins case is another defamation lawsuit. The plaintiff in the case was Jack Monroe who brought up a defamation claim against Katie Hopkins, a journalist. Jack Monroe is a food writer. Monroe’s net worth is 3 million dollars. While Monroe is famous due to her work, she cannot be considered to be among the very wealthy individuals in England. It can thereby be argued that her defamation case against Hopkins was not motivated by her ability to meet the costs involved but rather the need to redeem her reputation in the face of the damaging allegations made by Hopkins.
Another recent defamation case is that of Chris Gayle v Fairfax Media. The defamation claim was brought up by Chris Gayle, an international cricketer, against Fairfax Media accusing Fairfax Media for publishing a false statement indicating that Gayle exposed himself to a female masseuse. Gayle’s net worth is estimated to be 15 million dollars. While he is not among the wealthiest individuals in Jamaica, he is substantially rich. As such, it can be argued that he had the ability of suing Fairfax Media and could easily pay them had the case being proved against them. However, like in the case of Monroe, Gayle was more likely motivated by the need to safeguard his reputation rather than the ability to pay the cost involved in the case as well as the potential of being paid if he proves the case to be true.
Based on the cases mentioned above, while wealth plays a significant in people bringing up defamation claim, it is not necessary a requirement as demonstrated by the three former students of University of Virginia. In addition, defamation cases do not provide proof that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy. The issue of the Law of Defamation benefitting only the very wealthy can only be proved by analysing the law in relation to what it requires one to do in order to be able to file a defamation case against another individual.

Requirements of the Law of Defamation

In order to bring up a defamation case against another party, the Law of Defamation requires one to have enough evidence. According to the Law of Defamation, one must prove that the statement made is false and it results in injury to their reputation. In terms of the charges involved in filing a defamation lawsuit, the Law of Defamation does not spell out how much one needs to pay in order to file a defamation case. This implies that the issue of charges is in the jurisdiction of the justice system. Courts are thereby left to determine what one should pay when filing a defamation case against another individual or institution.

Analysis

The argument that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy is very hard to prove because of a number of reasons. One of them is that the Law of Defamation does not spell out exactly what one needs to pay in order to bring up a defamation lawsuit against another individual or institution. This is left to the discretion of the courts. In addition, the law does not indicate the repercussions of one failing to prove that the statement made about them by the defendant amounts to defamation. In addition, one may only be required to pay for defamation charges if the defendant decides to sue the plaintiff in return for damaging their reputation due to the false accusation.
Another reason is that not all cases of defamation involve the very wealthy. As demonstrated by the Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case, there are cases of ordinary individuals bringing up defamation cases against other individuals or institutions. This implies that it is not entirely true that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy. Nonetheless, while there are cases such as the Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case which contrast the argument that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy, most of the defamation cases involve the wealthy. There are a number of possible reasons why most defamation cases involve the very wealthy. One of them is the need to guard reputation. Most of the wealthy individuals are public figures. Some of them, as shown from the Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd case, are famous actors and actresses whose jobs are dependent on maintaining a good public image. Other individuals are big business individuals whose businesses are dependent on their individual reputation. As shown by Wilson in her defamation case against Bauer Media, any bad information concerning such individuals has negative consequences not only on their reputation but also on their source of livelihood. As such, whenever negative statements are published about them, they bring up a defamation claim in order to clear their names and redeem their reputation so that they can continue getting projects or enable their business to continue operating well. rad2deg
Another reason why most of the defamation cases involve the very wealthy is because of they can afford the costs involved. While this proves that the validity of the argument, it is does not necessarily implicate the Law of Defamation. Court cases are generally costly. And this has little to do with the way any law is designed. Instead it is because of the way the justice system operates. As pointed out earlier, the Law of Defamation, and any other law for that matter, does not spell out what one needs to pay in order to bring up a lawsuit against another party. The

courts determine the charges one needs to pay in order to take part in any court proceeding. The high costs of bringing up a court case against another individual makes many people to avoid bringing up defamation cases against others. This explains why most defamation cases involve the very wealthy individuals. The compensation amount is also another reason why ordinary individuals rarely pursue defamation cases. While the damage charges imposed in some defamation cases are substantial, in most cases the damages awarded to defamed individuals are modest, sometimes less than what was spent on the case. The question that arises is if the damages awarded are less than what one spends on a case, why the very wealthy pursue such a case. The answer is the wealthy, as pointed, bring up defamation cases not so much for financial gains but rather for repairing their damaged reputation. As pointed out by Rebel Wilson in her defamation case against Bauer Media, the false information published by Bauer Media affected her acting career significantly making her to experience financial losses. As such, Wilson brought up the case against Bauer Media in order to restore her reputation and continue getting acting projects. For the ordinary people, there is limited gain for bringing up a defamation case against another party. In most cases, one’s life is rarely affected due to a false statement made about them. One of the reasons why this is the case is that most ordinary individuals are not known beyond their local area. As such, a statement made against them is less likely to be known beyond their locality. In addition, such statements are likely to find their way to media unless of course they

are published by media companies as in the case of Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone. On the other hand, any statement made against a public figure, be it verbal or written, is likely to be taken up by media houses and published or broadcasted. As such, ordinary individuals with limited financial resources are less likely to bring up defamation cases since apart from gaining less financially as compared to what they spent on the case, there is little to lose when their reputation is dented due to a statement made by another individual.
Basically, it can be seen that the Law of Defamation, by its design, does not benefit the very wealthy since its provisions do not favour the wealthy while at the same time discriminating against the less wealthy. However, it can be argued that the Law of Defamation, by its presence in law, benefits the very wealthy. The Law of Defamation allows one to bring up a case against another individual or institution if they feel that the statement made against them is false and has tainted their reputation. It can thereby be argued that the Law of Defamation has provided an avenue the very wealthy and powerful individuals to lawfully silence critics. There are many cases where wealthy individuals have used the Law of Defamation to silence critics who fear that such individuals might use their wealth and power to influence the ruling in their favour. For example, as pointed out before, Thein Sein used his influence, both

financially and politically, to jail the Burmese writer Maung Saungkha for defamation. In this case, the Thein Sein used the Defamation Law to silence his critics. In countries such as Russia and China, people are constantly arrested and jailed for criticizing the government or senior political leaders with such individuals accused of defamation. The use of the Law of Defamation to silence is particularly rampant in countries which are under dictators as these leaders have taken control of institutions such as the judiciary which normally rule in their favour

Evaluation

The argument that the Law of Defamation benefits the very wealthy can be evaluated on based on two criteria. The first one is with respect to the design of the law. As mentioned before, the design of the law does not favour any particular individual. As all laws, the Law of Defamation is aimed to help all people. Each individual has a right to access the courts and bring up a defamation claim against another party. The problem is thereby not with the law but rather the implementers. How the law comes to favour or benefit only the very wealthy is due to problems in implementation. The charges involved in one bringing up a defamation case scare most ordinary people who do not have significant wealth. It can be thereby be concluded that the Law of Defamation, in itself, does not benefit only the very wealthy but only serves all people.
Another criterion that can be used to evaluate the argument that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy is in the existence of the law itself. Based on the available evidence, it can be concluded that the presence of the law has provided an avenue for the very wealthy and powerful individuals to silence critics and prevent any individual from raising any issue against them. It can be realized that the existence of the law itself is the problem because very wealthy can use their financial resources to not only bring up the claim against other people or institutions that make statements against them but also influence the ruling in their favour. As such, from the two criteria, it can be concluded that the Law of Defamation benefits and at the same time does not benefit the very wealthy. The law benefits the very wealthy merely by its existence. On the other hand, it does not benefit the very wealthy by its design.

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Conclusion

Basically, while the justice system has always claimed impartiality in handling any case, it has been argued that the Law of Defamation benefits only the very wealthy who can afford the substantial costs of bringing a defamation claim and can afford to take the risk of being held liable for the other party’s costs if they lose their claim. The Law of Defamation is a tort law which is aimed to prevent people from making false statements against others. The Law of Defamation states that it is legally wrong for one to make a false statement against another individual which hurts the reputation of the individual against which the statement has been made. There have many defamation cases brought up against individuals or institutions over time. They include the Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case, the Chris Gayle v Fairfax Media case, and Wilson v Bauer Media Pty Ltd case. Apart from the Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case, other cases mentioned involve fairly rich plaintiff. However, the Elias, IV, Hadford and Folwer v. Rolling Stone case proves that the Law of Defamation does not necessarily benefit the very wealthy. In addition, the design of the Law of Defamation does not indicate that the very wealthy are favoured. However, if the law is analysed with respect to its mere existence, then it can be found that it favours the very wealthy. The existence of the law allows the very wealthy and the powerful to use it to silence critics.

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