Ira Glass and “This American Life” respond to libel accusations
9:36 pm, April 15th, 2011
A lawyer for the public radio program “This American Life” defended the show’s reporting on a Brunswick judge and dismissed arguments she had been libeled.
Michael M. Conway of Foley & Lardner in Chicago was responding on behalf of the show’s host, Ira Glass, to a letter by David Oedel, a Mercer University law professor representing Judge Amanda Williams.
She was the subject of a “This American Life” broadcast last month that said the practices of her drug court “violate the basic philosophy of all drug courts.”
Oedel earlier this week called the story libelous and in a letter told Glass that Williams was moving ahead with legal action.
In his response to Oedel, provided by the program to the Daily Report on Friday night, Conway noted that speech about public officials was given broad constitutional protections.
“While you challenge [Glass’] opinion that this is the toughest drug court in the country,” Conway wrote, appeals courts in New York, California and Ohio have held that “opinions about judicial behavior are not actionable in defamation.”
Moreover, Conway said, the substance of the reporting was true.
In a separate response, Glass wrote that despite Oedel’s 14-page letter calling the report libelous, “Judge Williams and Mr. Oedel don’t dispute and barely address at all the main two points of my story.”
“Those two main points: 1) Judge Williams’ drug court uses punitive sanctions for relapses and other broken rules which are harsher than any other drug court I – or the national experts interviewed for the show, who were familiar with hundreds of drug courts across the country – could find. … 2) Judge Williams’ court uses a variety of means that other drug courts don’t to encourage defendants to sign up for drug court.”