CBS pointed out that Lillian Anaya's deposition testimony contained enough evidence to establish that she was a public official. The Court's citations to the transcript of the hearing refer to the Court Reporter's original, unedited version. During the arguments regarding public officials, the Court questioned CBS about footnote 13 from Rosenblatt v. See Tr.
Moreover, CBS pointed out that status as a public official does not turn on whether the person has received press beforehand, but on the person's function and authority, and whether the public has an interest in the function and authority. Footnote 13 states: It is suggested that this test might apply to a night watchman accused of stealing state secrets. But a conclusion that the New York Times malice standards apply could not be reached merely because a statement defamatory of some person in government employ catches the public's interest; that conclusion would virtually disregard society's interest in protecting reputation.
The employee's position must be one which would invite public scrutiny and discussion of the person holding it, entirely apart from the scrutiny and discussion occasioned by the particular charges in controversy.
Rosenblatt v. Lillian Anaya, on the other hand, asserted that her deposition testimony should read in harmony with the Declaration that she submitted later. She notes that much of the deposition testimony dealing with her work responsibilities was drawn from her resume, which was a self-promotional document that she wrote in while trying to get a better job. Thus, the Declaration establishes that she was a low-level employee, with no one working under her, with multiple layers of management above her, and no discretion in how LANL spends money, except, under narrow circumstances where sometimes she gets to choose from whom requested items are bought.
Lillian Anaya also contended that, while she had spending authority, her limit was at the low end for LANL, and that her contribution to spending amounted to one half of one percent of the LANL budget.
Finally, she mentioned that if the Court sees a genuine tension between her deposition and her Declaration, perhaps, pursuant to the rule 56 f motion, more evidence might be needed by way of deposition testimony or an evidentiary hearing. In its oral argument regarding Lillian Anaya's public figure-status, CBS clarified that it is not arguing that she is a general public figure, but rather that she is a limited-purpose public figure.
In response to the Court's inquiry about the importance of defining the scope of the controversy, CBS argued that it did not see the scope of the controversy as a significant dispute because of the many layers of controversy surrounding LANL. CBS argued that, even assuming that Lillian Anaya did not attempt to purchase the Mustang — something which it disputes — she still was "right dab in the middle of this controversy" as the biggest credit card spender.
Thus, "when a person is engaged in conduct or in a job that's at the heart of a public controversy, that person's a limited purpose public figure and it doesn't matter [whether] or not that person's out there seeking publicity because you can imagine in many many cases the last thing a person wants to do is if there's a controversy is seek out publicity. Lillian Anaya asserted at the oral argument — in reference to the fact that, as of June , she began to use the press to defend her reputation — that a person does not become a limited-purpose public figure simply by defending herself against a charge in the press.
She argued that the Supreme Court decision in Hutchinson v. Proxmire supports this contention. Following argument on public-official and public-figure status, the Court heard argument on what aspects of the individual broadcasts were defamatory, and whether there was evidence of malice in any or all of the five CBS broadcasts that discussed the alleged Mustang purchase.
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These arguments substantially followed the argument from the briefing. Regarding the November broadcast, CBS urged the Court to look at the broader context of the report and its focus on the allegations of a broader controversy, highlighting LANL's firing of the whistle-blowers.
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Further, CBS argued that the sources upon which Attkisson relied for her report contained, not merely an allegation that an attempt had occurred, but evidence that an actual attempt had occurred. Lillian Anaya counters that Attkisson knew, by the time of the broadcast, that no car was built, and that the charges were stopped before any loss occurred to the government.
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Further, Attkisson had access to the document that listed the All Mustang charges as disputed before the November broadcast. Regarding the December 20, broadcast, Lillian Anaya found it to be defamatory because, among other things, its graphics and narrative combined to give the viewer an impression that she was the biggest fraudulent spender at LANL. She also pointed out the graphic in the broadcast in which a Mustang was portrayed with the text "purchased by Lillian Anaya" below it. Lillian Anaya argued that CBS knew this information to be false when it ran the story on December 20, She also pointed out that there is a difference between "purchasing" and "allegedly charging," and that the fact that the headline stated one, while the text stated another, is evidence that CBS knew that it was falsely reporting that Lillian Anaya "purchased" the car.
CBS argued that Lillian Anaya has taken certain segments of the broadcast out of context and that a viewing of a recording of the broadcast reveals that Attkisson reported the Mustang purchase as an allegation. CBS further maintained that Attkisson had resolved in her own mind, after careful research, that the sources upon which she relied were credible. Lillian Anaya contended at the hearing that the February broadcast was defamatory, first, because it aired Doran stating that there had been "no arrests, prosecutions, or indictments," followed by the question: "Not even for the employee whom the Lab gave a million dollar a month credit line and got caught charging a custom Mustang at taxpayer expense?
Lillian Anaya pointed out that CBS continued to broadcast that she charged a Mustang, when the evidence that CBS had in hand proved that she never did such a thing. CBS noted that the taxpayers paid the bill for Lillian Anaya's purchase card, and the report states that she was caught.
Had the transaction gone through, the taxpayers would have been out the price of the purchase. CBS therefore maintained that its report in February, viewed as a whole, was accurate. Lillian Anaya argued that the October broadcast was defamatory in various respects. First, the broadcast began with a picture of a Mustang, with Rather stating: "Hey, nice car! She bought it and charged it to you the taxpayer.
Second, Rather stated:. She bought a Mustang with your tax dollars and her bosses still claim she's the victim. Next, Attkisson came on and referred to the Mustang as "the most sensational of all the suspect purchases. Thus, according to Lillian Anaya, CBS falsified the Mustang story again, falsified or misleadingly quoted from her FBI , and misrepresented the exonerating wrong-number theory in such a way that it would strike the average viewer as ridiculous.
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To support the contention that Attkisson was not acting maliciously, CBS' Counsel pointed to her extensive Declaration. CBS also contended that the broadcasts contained a fair summary of the wrong-number theory. Regarding the April broadcast, CBS' contended that the broadcast went through the basic context of the Mustang allegation and noted that news report catalogued additional suspect purchases. The reference "she's at it again," therefore, should not be understood as a temporal reference implying that Lillian Anaya was still making purchases, but only that there was new evidence that Lillian Anaya had been involved in questionable purchasing activity.
The final issue raised at the hearing was the rule 56 f motion to allow for more evidence on the issue of public official status. The Court indicated that it was inclined to allow the two extra depositions requested, but that it would not slow down its work on the motion for summary judgment or wait for the additional evidence.
In light of these constitutional values, the Supreme Court established that, while private plaintiffs in defamation suits would still be governed by the standards of the common law, public officials would face the more stringent requirement of showing actual malice. See New York Times Co. Under the "actual malice" standard, a plaintiff must prove that a defamatory statement was published "with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false. Such a plaintiff must prove actual malice by clear-and-convincing evidence, see Rosenbloom v.
Metromedia, Inc. Moreover, while a plaintiff who is neither a public official nor a limited-purpose public figure may recover actual damages by a showing of simple negligence, he or she may not recover punitive damages unless he or she proves actual malice. See Gertz v. The Supreme Court has declined to establish a bright-line definition of "public official. Gannett Co. Any analysis, however, must be rooted in the underlying rationale for the rule in New York Times v.
There is, first, a strong interest in debate on public issues, and, second, a strong interest in debate about those persons who are in a position significantly to influence the resolution of those issues. Criticism of government is at the very center of the constitutionally protected area of free discussion. Criticism of those responsible for government operations must be free, lest criticism of government itself be penalized. It is clear, therefore, that the "public official" designation applies at the very least to those among the hierarchy of government employees who have, or appear to the public to have, substantial responsibility for or control over the conduct of governmental affairs.
In Rosenblatt v. Baer , the Supreme Court suggested that a public official plaintiff must hold "a position in government [that] has such apparent importance that the public has an independent interest in the qualifications and performance of the person who holds it, beyond the general public interest in the qualifications and performance of all government employees. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court has recognized that the paramount importance of preserving public debate about matters of public concerns is in tension with another important interest: the public's interest in preserving the reputational interests of citizens.
Facing the suggestion that a night watchman charged with stealing state secrets might be a public figure under the Supreme Court's analysis, the Supreme Court in Rosenblatt v. Baer retorted: It is suggested that this test might apply to a night watchman accused of stealing state secrets. The employee's position must be one which would invite public scrutiny and discussion of the person holding it, entirely apart from the scruting [sic] and discussion occasioned by the particular charges in controversy.
See Kassel v. The inherent attributes of the position, not the occurrence of random events, must signify the line of demarcation. A determination that a plaintiff is a public figure rests on at least two important policy considerations: "[F]irst, a strong interest in debate on public issues, and, second, a strong interest in debate about those persons who are in a position significantly to influence the resolution of those issues. The facts of the leading Supreme Court opinions discussing the issue do not define the attributes of a public official.
Sullivan had no trouble finding public-official status for a plaintiff who was one of three elected Commissioners of the city of Montgomery, Alabama.