“Which office do I go to get my reputation back?” — former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan.
No such office exists. There is no office where a person can go to get back his or her good name after a lifetime of effort and achievement is destroyed in a moment by unsubstantiated accusations. But under our system of justice there is a place where an individual can go to seek redress and accountability for accusations that destroy reputation. Judge Kavanaugh, you have spent much of your adult life there – that place is a court of law. Because you are a sitting member of the federal judiciary and may yet be a justice on the United States Supreme Court, you may be disinclined to be a litigant in civil defamation lawsuits. If these are your feelings, I urge you to reconsider.
As you well know, the law provides that republishers of unsubstantiated, false accusations are liable for such accusations even when initially made by others if they republish those accusations with a reckless disregard for truth or falsity. Since at least 1896, our courts have recognized the legal maxim that “talebearers are as bad as talemakers” in the eyes of the law
Your list is long. NBC, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, USA Today, The New Yorker, and the parade of individuals of all stripes who cannot resist the lure of the bright lights and cameras to echo and validate your accusers in the media. And to restore some public faith in our profession, include on your list a lawyer named Michael Avenatti, who has abused and demeaned you and our system of justice for personal publicity, fame, and fortune.
The members of this list, and many others, have demonstrated considerably more than the requisite degree of recklessness in promoting their agendas by accusing you. Their constant republications of unsubstantiated accusations have and will adversely impact your life – and the lives of your family members – for generations. Sue them all.
I gave this same advice to Richard Jewell in 1996 when he was falsely accused of the terrorist bombing of Centennial Park while the world was watching the media frenzy that occurred during the Olympic Games in Atlanta. The media and Richard’s “friends” accused him on a daily basis until the truth finally emerged. Initially, Richard did not want to sue, but he knew that the option of doing nothing was unacceptable. A line had been crossed. Richard had no other place to go to seek redress and accountability. Richard never regretted taking legal action and, in the process, he achieved a measure of justice. I predict you would as well.
In the face of these unfounded and heinous accusations lodged against you and the ongoing 24/7 media frenzy republishing the accusations ad nauseam, it is okay for you to be angry and emotional. Fair-minded people understand the pain you and your family have been forced to suffer.
Fair-minded people will also understand if you choose to rely on the system of justice that you have spent much of your life serving. Richard Jewell wanted justice and accountability. He deserved both. So do you. The line has again been crossed. Sue them all.
L. Lin Wood is a nationally recognized trial lawyer based in Atlanta, with 42 years of experience. For over two decades, he has focused his practice on defamation law and protection of reputation.