Is U.S. Defamation Law Going Singaporean?
By Bryan Caplan
Law prof legend Richard Epstein just escaped a ridiculous defamation suit. His offense was writing the following blurb for the back cover of Bulldozed: “Kelo,” Eminent Domain and the American Lust for Land:
Like a Greek tragedy unfolding, Carla Main’s book chronicles the eminent domain struggles in Freeport, Texas, which pitted the Gore family, with its longtime shrimp business, against the machinations of an unholy alliance between city politicians and avaricious developers. If you have ever shared the Supreme Court’s unquestioned deference to the public planning process that shaped its ill-fated Kelo decision, you’ll surely change your mind as you follow this sordid saga to its bitter end. You’ll never look at eminent domain in the same way again.
In Singapore, Epstein would have to affirmatively prove that there was an alliance between politicians and developers, and that the developers were “avaricious.” Since that’s the thesis of Bulldozed, though, the defamation suit is really asking a judge to rule on the accuracy of the book. That’s a task Singaporean judges are often happy to perform. Are U.S. judges willing to do the same?
So far, the answer seems to be, “Maybe.” The case was not summarily dismissed. Epstein got the case thown out on jurisdictional grounds – he hasn’t been to Texas in ages! Alas, that means that the author and publisher are still on the hook. Stay tuned.