Even as Jury Deliberates, Judge Says He’ll Toss Palin Libel Suit Against New York Times

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 03: Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin arrives at a federal court in Manhattan to resume a case against the New York Times after it was postponed because she tested positive for Covid-19 on February 03, 2022 in New York City. Palin, a one-time vice …
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

U.S. Judge Jed S. Rakoff, a Bill Clinton appointee, told lawyers in the courtroom in New York Monday he would dismiss Sarah Palin’s defamation suit against the New York Times for lack of evidence, even as the jury deliberated over the verdict.

The jury will not learn of the dismissal until after it has deliberated, creating the potential between a conflict between the verdict and the judge’s decision to dismiss the case — or to issue what courts refer to as a “directed verdict” to end the trial.

Palin sued the Times over a 2017 editorial in which it said that she had inspired the 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona. Judge Rakoff initially dismissed the case, but it was revived by a federal appeals court. After the presentation of arguments in initial motions, Rakoff decided that Palin had enough evidence to allow the case to go to trial — a rarity in defamation suits by public figures against the media, since the standard of proving “actual malice” is usually too high for plaintiffs to clear.

Moreover, Rakoff sent the case to the jury after closing arguments last week. But on Monday, as NPR’s David Folkenflik reported, he had second thoughts, and said Palin failed to meet the “actual malice” standard because of the Times‘s correction, and then-editorial page editor James Bennet’s contrition:

Defense lawyers routinely ask judges to issue directed verdicts, and they may do so at any time during the trial. But to do so while the jury is still deliberating is very rare.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

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