Former JACC ED is now suing bloggers
In the incredible ongoing saga of the Jordan Area Community Council (JACC), the neighborhood group’s former ED, Jerry Moore, who was fired after pulling punches against neighbors, is now suing blogger John Hoff (a.k.a. Johnny Northside), Donald Allen, principal of V-Media and five John Does for defamation and biased reporting.
The complaint, which was filed in Hennepin County on Friday, June 26, blames Hoff for Moore’s recent letting-go from a job with the University of Minnesota’s Urban Research and Outreach Center (UROC). In the complaint, Moore contends that the influential Hoff isn’t acting as a neutral reporter. Rather, it declares that Hoff is becoming part of the story and so is “disentitled” to First Amendment protections. On his North Minneapolis-centric blog Hoff has been chronicling, in colorful detail, unfolding events that Moore has been a part of, including several pieces of litigation, among other things. For a rundown of the pertinent court cases, see Jordan resident Dottie Titus’ blog post.
It’s clear from Hoff’s blog, which sometimes meanders into satire, that he isn’t necessarily playing the role of a straight-up hard news reporter but that of an opinion writer (or a blend between the two). Yet, the complaint goes on to say that Hoff fails to get the “other side of the story” in JACC affairs, for instance, and screen his personal opinions. Hoff vets comments, it states, allowing some of the site’s visitors to make their mark anonymously. Even though it’s a common practice on websites that allow commenting, the complaint contends that in Hoff’s case it creates a so-called “defamation zone.” Further, it alleges that Hoff is too chummy with city politicians, which classifies him as a private citizen, not a media person, it adds.
Referencing a separate case involving the old versus new leadership of JACC — see linked story at top, a matter that awaits resolution with the courts by the end of the week — the complaint contends that Hoff provided the defense with documentation that Moore received a $5,000 kickback in a mortgage fraud scheme. By doing so, it alleges that Hoff inserted himself into the litigation. The lawsuit makes a request for $50,000 in damages.
It’s worth pointing out here its similarities to a past Dakota County case brought by DFL activist Blois Olson against Republican Michael Brodkorb for alleged defamatory statements on his blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed, also for $50,000 in damages. A judge threw out the allegations in 2007, determining that the blog is covered by the same protections as newspapers against lawsuits by public figures.
Further countering Moore’s case, Minnesota’s Shield Law, “explicitly recognizes the public’s interest in protecting the free flow of information provided by the news media.” It broadly “protects those persons “directly engaged in the gathering, procuring, compiling, editing, or publishing of information” from revealing sources or unpublished information.””
Stay tuned for further updates on this issue, including a chronology of litigation leading to this current lawsuit plus comments from some media law experts.