Search Results for ""actual malice""

Miss Universe Pageant Scores Big Against Former Contestant

The Quaker State can be proud of many things.  The Liberty Bell.  Andy Warhol.  Tastykake.  Trading Places.  The Immaculate Reception.  But one part of its history that Pennsylvania may wish to forget (besides dog killer Michael Vick) is the garrulous young woman chosen to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant — Sheena Monnin.  Last month, a New York arbitrator found that Monnin defamed the Miss Universe organization when she claimed that the show had been rigged and ordered her to pay $5 million in damages.  Everyone knows that beauty pageants are big business (and were even before Honey Boo Boo tragically became a household name).  But how did they suddenly become the setting for big damages awards too?

“Fraudulent, Lacking in Morals, Inconsistent, and in Many Ways Trashy”

Monnin participated in the Miss USA competition and was not one of the semifinalists selected by the pageant judges.  A different panel of celebrity judges then chose the five finalists, including the eventual Miss Universe, Olivia Culpo of Rhode Island.

She of the $5 million judgmentMoments after learning she had not been chosen as a semifinalist, Monnin sent an email to the director of the Miss Pennsylvania USA Pageant, Randy Sanders, claiming that the contest had been “f-ing rigged Randy.”  (Wouldn’t be surprised if this phrase becomes part of the vernacular.)  Monnin resigned as Miss Pennsylvania the next day.  As her reason, she stated that the pageant system had “removed itself from its foundational principles” by allowing transgendered contestants.  That night, she publicly announced her resignation on Facebook, stating that she wanted no affiliation with an organization that was “fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy” — a sentiment that sounds like it could just as easily be a review of the clientele at many Hollywood nightclubs.

In a second Facebook post, she provided a new rationale for her resignation:  the show had been rigged.  As evidence, Monnin gave details of a conversation with another contestant who purportedly had found a list naming the top five finalists prior to the final judging. 

Not surprisingly, these comments received much media attention.  Monnin repeated her accusations on NBC’s Today Show, which is broadcast nationally. 

Given that allegations of corruption in judging are nothing new and are rarely substantiated (the 2002 Winter Olympics figure skating scandal notwithstanding), the Miss Universe officials might have let this go after Monnin ignored the group’s offer to review the judging process with her.  Forgiveness, however, was no longer on the agenda after the organization allegedly lost a potential $5 million sponsor who purportedly pulled out after expressing concern about the “rigging” allegations. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Miss Universe Organization Sues Contestant for Accusing Miss USA Pageant of Being Phonier Than a Spray-On Tan

As any viewer of The Apprentice knows, Donald Trump likes to be the one to say “you’re fired.”  However, Miss Pennsylvania, Sheena Monnin, recently “fired” Trump and his Miss Universe Organization.

Monnin gave up her crown after alleging that the results of the May 30, 2012 Miss USA Pageant were rigged, and were even known by certain contestants before they were announced on live television.

Monnin claims that the Donald is as morally bankrupt as many of his companies are financially bankrupt.  On June 6, 2012, Monnin posted this highly restrained “letter of resignation” on her Facebook page:

I have decided to resign my position as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.  Effective immediately I have voluntarily, completely, and utterly removed myself from the Miss Universe Organization.

In good conscience I can no longer be affiliated in any way with an organization I consider to be fraudulent, lacking in morals, inconsistent, and in many ways trashy.  I do not support this system in any way.  In my heart I believe in honesty, fair play, a fair opportunity, and high moral integrity, none of which in my opinion are part of this pageant system any longer.

Thank you all for your support and understanding as I walk a road I never dreamed I’d need to walk, as I take a stand I never dreamed I’d need to take.

After 10 years of competing in a pageant system I once believed in, I now completely and irrevocably separate myself in every way and on every level from the Miss Universe Organization.  I remove my support completely and have turned in the title of Miss Pennsylvania USA 2012.

Although the post has since been removed, the accusations didn’t go over well with Trump, who has a history of reminding the public about his honesty and search for the truth.  (When he teased making a presidential run in 2000, he humbly noted:  “I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.”  More recently, Trump responded to President Obama’s definitive refutation of Trump’s “Birther” claims by proudly taking credit for getting to the truth of Obama’s birth certificate.)

The Donald vs. Miss Pennsylvania

Needless to say, Trump and the Miss Universe Organization did not take Monnin’s allegations of dishonestly lightly, promptly serving her with a legal arbitration action for defamation.  Essentially, they maintain Monnin is a “loser” whose whine is caused by a case of “sour grapes.”  While Sheena may be guilty of missed congeniality, has she actually Trumped up false and defamatory accusations? Continue reading the full story . . . »


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The NFL’s Biggest Bounty?

After being barred from going after opposing quarterbacks in 2012, Jonathan Vilma is now going after the biggest bounty of them all — NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Last week, Vilma sued Goodell for defamation based on Goodell’s accusations that Vilma participated in the New Orleans Saints’ bounty program.

As any self-respecting sports fan (or anyone else who doesn’t live here) knows by now, the NFL recently discovered that Saints coaches and players created a system by which the players would receive monetary bonuses for knocking opposing players out of a game with injury.  (And you know a scandal is serious when it gets its own Wikipedia page.)  Goodell claims Vilma was at the center of that program, going so far as to promise $10,000 of his own money to anyone who knocked Brett Favre (and later Kurt Warner) out of a playoff game.  Vilma insists that he did not take part in the bounty program, that he never offered money to his teammates to take out Brett Favre or Kurt Warner and that Goodell had no reasonable basis on which to make those allegations.  Vilma seeks unspecified damages for the harm to his reputation caused by Goodell’s statements.

As my regular readers (somebody must read this stuff, right?) should know by now, I’m a football fan, so the idea of an NFL player suing the almighty Roger Goodell is fascinating stuff.  Since becoming commissioner in 2006, Goodell has become the judge, jury and executioner regarding player (and coach) misconduct.  Players who get in trouble must go meet with Goodell (presumably to kiss the brass ring, or maybe just something that rhymes with the “brass” part) and then await his punishment without any rules or guidelines on how that punishment will be administered.  But don’t worry:  if the player (or coach) believes the punishment is unjust, he can always appeal to — guess who? — Goodell.  Although Goodell has, on occasion, reduced a player’s punishment, it happens rarely and there is little explanation of why.  (Doesn’t really seem fair to me, but I’m just a Bills fan…and Bills players never do anything wrong…  Or, in recent years, right.)  It’s safe to assume that more than one NFL player out there (like Goodell’s BFF James Harrison) would offer a chunk out of his salary to have someone take Goodell down a peg or twelve.

So, the real question for us here at Law Law Land is:  does Vilma stand any chance of winning and forcing Goodell to change his ways?  Probably not.  Here’s why. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Q&A: What Are the Risks of Using Actors to Portray Real People in a Fictionalized Bio-Pic?

Q:  What are the legalities of using actors to portray real people in a film — a fictionalized bio-pic in which the main character is purely fiction but some of the other characters are real, both living and deceased?  For example, if Forrest Gump did not use actual footage but instead chose to represent those scenes using actors to represent the famous people?

A:  I really liked Forrest Gump when I saw it.  I’m pretty sure I even cried in it.  Now I hate it for some reason.  Maybe it’s just a general backlash against Tom Hanks’ haircut in The Da Vinci Code.  But let’s not get into that.

As to your question…we Americans generally think we all have a 1st Amendment right that gives us the ability to say what we please when we please, which has lead to such enlightening phenomena as Ashton Kutcher’s constant Tweeting (thanks a lot, Founding Fathers).  What is important to understand, however, is that this right of free speech is not absolute.  We are not always free to say what we please, especially when it comes to saying things about other people. Continue reading the full story . . . »


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How the First Amendment Protects Your Right to Be a Jerk

Sadly, “shocking” racist or bigoted celebrity tirades no longer make for shocking news. Even if the Constitution can’t protect them in the court of public opinion, celebrities like Mel GibsonMichael Richards, andTracy Morgan are lucky enough to live in America, where the First Amendment protects them from legal consequences for the absurd things that come out of their mouths. John Galliano, on the other hand? Not so lucky. He could face jail time for his recent anti-Semitic and racist rants.

The former creative director of French fashion house Christian Dior was arrested in February for allegedly shouting anti-Jewish and racist insults at a couple at a bar in Paris. He also allegedly exchanged slaps with the couple. Galliano was immediately fired from his position at Christian Dior and ostracized from the fashion community. Shortly after the incident, Galliano ended up in rehab (which is now apparently a cure for everything from alcoholism to racism to not being able to stop once you pop). In court, Galliano claimed that he was an alcoholic and drug addict, and that these addictions caused him to make the racist rants (of which he supposedly has no memory). Galliano is being charged with making “public insults based on origin, religious affiliation, race or ethnicity” — a type of prohibition which was widely adopted throughout Europe in the aftermath of the Holocaust — and could face up tosix months in prison.

Although Galliano is, in practice, unlikely to see a jail cell even if he’s convicted, the fact that it’s a possibility at all is more-than-mildly perplexing to us Americans who are used to having free reign to make comments like that — usually either on a stand-up stage, while being arrested for something else, or on Fox News — without the threat of prosecution. So when can you go to jail for speech in America? Continue reading the full story . . . »


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Why You Probably Won’t See Grammer vs. Grammer on the Civil Docket

During a Hollywood breakup, inevitably the bitter dumpee will publicly air some dirty laundry about the heartless dumper. And by now, most of us are probably bored of the endless parade of allegations ofdalliances with the nannyobsessions with child pornography, andmind-bending racist rants (I mean, those are so overdone, right?). But every once in a while, you get a really interesting, fresh take on the mid-breakup PR takedown. For example, what if the dumpee stronglyinsinuates that the dumper is secretly into cross-dressing? Can that dumper sue the loose-lipped dumpee for defamation? Well, let’s take a look at an example.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills is a lovely show that documents the lives of several caring, down-to-earth, and respectful women….oh wait, wrong show. The real Real Housewives of Beverly Hills documents the dramatic lives of six well-to-do women who love their ritzy lifestyles and seem to constantly get into screaming matches with each other about absolutely nothing. (Um. Or so I hear…) One of the show’s stars, Camille Grammer (a.k.a. Kelsey Grammer’s bitter soon-to-be ex-wife), has been the instigator of many of those screaming matches. Yet, evidently not content with stirring things up in only one medium, the erstwhile Mrs. Frasier Crane went for bonus headlines during an appearance last week on theHoward Stern Show.

When Howard Stern asked Camille whether Kelsey starred in the cross-dressing Broadway show La Cage aux Folles because he is gay, Camille quickly replied, “That’s for another reason.” Howard Stern and his sidekick Robin Quivers then pressed Camille about whether Kelsey was secretly into cross-dressing. In response, a laughing Camille not-so-coyly stated, “I didn’t say it. I’m not talking about that.” While Camille did not exactly say that Kelsey likes to play dress up with women’s clothes, she never denied it or indicated that she was joking around. Instead, she strongly implied that cross-dressing was one of Kelsey’s private extracurricular activities. Before going any further, but not before hinting that Kelsey has worn her panties in the past, Camille decided to change the subject for fear she would be “smacked with a lawsuit.”

Kelsey does not seem to be all that rattled by Camille’s antics. But, this being a legal blog and all, what we want to know is: can Kelsey sue his estranged wife for defamation? Continue reading the full story . . . »


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