Tom Spurgeon's Web site of comics news, reviews, interviews and commentary

April 8, 2014

Signe Wilkinson Named As Part Of Highly-Publicized Defamation Suit


The cartoonist Signe Wilkinson was named in a defamation suit filed earlier this year by Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffery and his wife Lise Rapaport, who happens to be his chief judicial aide. At issue is a series of news reports and accompanying editorial work by the Philadelphia Inquirer, including the Wilkinson cartoon above, that looked into the nature of McCaffery's decisions on cases after the couple had received fees for directing those cases to personal injury firms. The series led to the adoption of some new rules and even prompted an FBI investigation.

This follow-up piece notes that the owner of the Inquirer hasn't become legally involved -- which is fairly interesting, although I'm not sure if that's a really big deal or not -- and that the lawyers that are involved have focused their attention on getting the case presided over by an out-of-county judge because of McCaffery's massive influence in that specific part of the state. In that way, the case resembles some of the wholly noxious abuses of the legal systems in other countrie by influential, sitting politicians, which I always used to say had no North American equivalent. So congratulations to the lawyers involved on that count.

It's hard for me to imagine coverage that we already know existed in the real world to the extent it could drive procedural changes and a criminal investigation could also be defamatory, but we'll see as the facts present themselves if there's anything substantial to the case. Another chilling consideration is that it need not be a substantial case in order to have a drastic impact on the life of those involved, setting an ugly precedent for future coverage and expression of opinion about that coverage. I wish Wilkinson a just outcome and all the luck in getting there, and I'm glad because of this lawsuit that more people will see this funny, critical work.

I started here.
posted 2:05 am PST | Permalink

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