The thing about free speech is that it can be abused. There’s no requirement under the First Amendment that you tell the truth. Except in the most extreme circumstances, stopping free speech before it is uttered – “prior restraint” – is usually unconstitutional.
But there can be consequences afterwards.
False statements about a person or a business that damage the reputation of the person are a kind of “defamation,” the generic term for libel, slander and their cousins. And the consequences of defamation can be pretty severe; in most states, defamation with reckless disregard for the truth can support awards of punitive damages.
As hack lawyer Sidney Powell is discovering.
Since the national elections on November 2, Powell has been claiming (among other things) that voting machines made by Dominion Voting Systems are corrupt, that they contain secret code that switched Trump votes to Biden votes, along with a whole host of other dubious claims. Powell has gotten her fifteen minutes of fame by sucking up to our petulant president, supporting his bogus claims of election fraud with bogus claims against Dominion.
On January 8, Dominion, through attorneys Clare Locke, LLP, filed a defamation claim against Sidney Powell. In a very thorough, very well-drafted 124-page complaint, Dominion shows just how incredibly reckless and dishonest Powell has been in her wild, entirely unsubstantiated and completely false claims about Dominion. That whole business about Hugo Chavez, the deceased Venezuelan president and how Dominion designed its voting machines to accommodate his corruption? Totally invented. Dominion has never done business in or with Venezuela. Powell just made it up.
She made up a whole lot of other stuff, too, as Dominion’s complaint shows. Including fake affidavits, altered documents and bogus facts. As of the writing of this blog post, her websites still host these claims, despite letters from Dominion demanding that she cease and desist. She’s still soliciting money, too. And WC has no doubt there are fools still giving her money. Her donors might make better use of their money by burning it on a street corner, where it might at least keep someone warm.
Because to the extent Powell doesn’t simply steal the donations, it’s going to go to her defamation defense attorneys and, if those lawyers don’t consume it all, to Dominion as part of the damages award Dominion is going to get against Powell. The chickens – in the form of a judgment in favor of Dominion for more money that Sidney Powell has ever seen – are well and truly going to come home to roost. And the Texas Bar Association (the only state in which Powell is admitted) may even bestir itself to impose discipline against her.
Because Powell is going to lose. Bigly. She may not be smart enough or self-aware enough to recognize it, but Sidney Powell has a ticket punched for bankruptcy court.
Which leads to WC’s rhetorical question: is it that everything Trump touches turns to shit? Or is it that Trump attracts people who are seriously full of shit?
(Since WC wrote this blog post, Ms. Powell has been permanently suspended from Twitter. See? It’s not just WC.)