Reuters | By Dan Levine Posted: 01/17/2014 2:50 pm EST | Updated: 01/17/2014 4:50 pm EST HuffingtonPost
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“In this day and age, with so much important stuff produced by people who are not professionals, it’s harder than ever to decide who is a member of the institutional press,” Volokh said.
Cox’s blogging activities have attracted their share of controversy. According to the court’s opinion, Cox has a history of making allegations of fraud and other illegal activities “and seeking payoffs in exchange for retraction.”
In 2008, Summit Accommodators retained Obsidian, a firm that advises distressed businesses. When Summit filed for bankruptcy, the court appointed an Obsidian principal, Kevin Padrick, as trustee.
Cox wrote a series of blog posts, including one that accused Padrick of tax fraud in failing to pay $174,000 in taxes owed by Summit. U.S. District Judge Marco Hernandez in Oregon rejected Cox’s First Amendment defenses, and a jury awarded Padrick and Obsidian a combined $2.5 million.
However, the 9th Circuit found that the tax fraud allegations were a matter of public concern, which means Obsidian had to show evidence of Cox’s negligent behavior.
“The allegations against Padrick and his company raised questions about whether they were failing to protect the defrauded investors because they were in league with their original clients,” Judge Hurwitz wrote.
Volokh said that on retrial, Obsidian will have to show that Cox had actual knowledge that her post was false when she published it.
The case in the 9th Circuit is Obsidian Finance Group LLC and Kevin Padrick vs. Crystal Cox, 12-35238. (Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Richard Chang)