Defamation suit arising out of local political controversy is dismissed
Derith Smith won a verdict against Noel Flohe, Charles Stewart, George Preston and others, after they allegedly smeared her name in a mailing campaign that made use of a public report that contained factual untruths and inaccuracies. The case was appealed, and last year the Michigan Supreme Court ordered the Appeals Court to reevaluate Smith's claims.This week the Court again reversed the verdict in Smith's favor, holding that in a difficult balance of "free speech" rights involving a public figure, the material in the mailing campaign was not actionable. The Court held that Smith did not adequately prove actual malice by the actors in the expression of ideas which the Court deemed matters of "opinion." The Court cited prior authorities requiring a careful review by appellate courts to assure that jurors' defamation decisions not give "short sh rift to important First Amendment rights."