Posts Tagged ‘defamation’

WHEN CHILD SUPPORT & CUSTODY GET UGLY: IS IT DEFAMATION?

October 13, 2012

By Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

There is no such thing as “happy law”, especially in contested child support, custody, and visitation cases. Of course, the nature of the contested matter is expected to breed a degree of contention and aggravation between the two (or more) parties each contending for what they believe is in the best interests of the child. Unfortunately, this discord often spills over onto the surrounding family members, particularly grandparents, dragging them into the dispute. But what happens when the drama spills over into the public? Is it defamation for a parent or a grandparent to make those nasty comments about you?

A recent court decision, Chaker v. Mateo et al., says it may be free speech. In that case, Plaintiff Darren D. Chaker and his ex-girlfriend Nicole Mateo were engaged in a contentious paternity and support dispute regarding their child. Plaintiff Chaker filed the suit against Nicole and her mother, Wendy Mateo, for alleged defamatory statements posted on various internet websites. Chaker v. Mateo et al, 2012 DJDAR 13830. Some statements, posted on a consumer rating/awareness website, warned would-be consumers to steer clear of the plaintiff and his forensics business, saying he was scary and may take steroids. Other statements, posted on a social networking site, speak of the plaintiff’s poor character, referring to him as a deadbeat dad and a criminal. Ultimately, the courts determined that the child’s grandmother, Wendy Mateo, was exercising her constitutional right to free speech by expressing non-actionable, although negative, opinions about the child’s father.

If I am the victim of negative, harassing, abusive statements, what should I do? The only one-size-fits-all advice on how to respond if you find yourself in such a situation is:  TALK TO AN ATTORNEY! Although this plaintiff’s case was dismissed against the grandmother, that ruling was based on a specific set of circumstances. No two situations are alike, and there are many possible solutions to your concerns.

TALK TO AN ATTORNEY TODAY! In most legal situations, time is of the essence. The mere passage of time can harm your ability to obtain the best possible outcome for your particular circumstances. Because the law firm of Heiting & Irwin offers free consultations, there is no reason to put off calling today. We welcome your calls regarding paternity, child support, child custody and visitation, and divorce matters at (951) 682-6400.

Slander Conviction Being Appealed by Knox

February 7, 2012

By Sara B. Morgan, Esq.

Recent reports indicate that former exchange student, Amanda Knox, has filed an appeal of her conviction in Italy for slander (click link here). It is alleged that Knox slandered an Italian bar owner during the course of the investigation into the murder of Meredith Kercher, for which Knox was convicted but later freed. Apparently, Knox falsely accused the Italian bar owner of involvement in the murder.

The laws defining slander vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. For instance, in California, slander can be defined as:

“a false and unprivileged publication, orally uttered, and also communications by radio or any mechanical or other means which:

1. Charges any person with crime, or with having been indicted, convicted, or punished for crime;

2. Imputes in him the present existence of an infectious, contagious, or loathsome disease;

3. Tends directly to injure him in respect to his office, profession, trade or business, either by imputing to him general disqualification in those respects which the office or other occupation peculiarly requires, or by imputing something with reference to his office, profession, trade, or business that has a natural tendency to lessen its profits;

4. Imputes to him impotence or a want of chastity; or

5. Which, by natural consequence, causes actual damage.”

Civil Code, Section 46. It is distinguished from libel, which is essentially slander in writing, based on the way it is communicated. See Civil Code, Section 45.

The validity of a potential slander claim varies based on the circumstances in which it arises, and it is important to discuss the details of any situation with a well-qualified attorney as soon as possible. At Heiting & Irwin, we have in excess of 35 years representing the interests of people who have been harmed by the actions of others. We offer free consultations, a warm and inviting office, and a friendly staff to anyone interested in speaking about a potential legal matter. If you would like to speak with someone about your circumstances, please call our office at (951) 682-6400 for a free consultation.