Judge dismisses libel claim against conservative blogger

By The Associated Press
03.12.07

ST. PAUL, Minn. — A district judge has dismissed a libel lawsuit against a conservative blogger, saying the man's political Web site had the same legal protections as newspapers and traditional broadcasters against lawsuits by public figures.

"I think this goes back to what I said from the beginning, that this was a frivolous lawsuit and the court agreed with me," said Michael Brodkorb, a Republican operative who publishes the blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed.

In the lawsuit filed in January 2006, public relations executive Blois Olson sued Brodkorb after he suggested that Olson criticized the congressional campaign of fellow Democrat Collen Rowley after she refused to hire Olson's New School Communications.

Brodkorb, who cited an anonymous source, asked why Olson didn't disclose that when he criticized Rowely in the media.

Olson denied his firm sought the work, and his attorney has said Olson and New School had not sought or done campaign work since 1998.

Olson is co-publisher of the Politics in Minnesota newsletter, and is a regular commentator on KTCA's "Almanac" and WCCO-AM.

In dismissing the case on March 8, Dakota County District Court Judge Timothy Blakely cited the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1964 libel decision, New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, stating that public figures must prove malice or reckless disregard for the truth to win defamation claims.

Blakely ruled Olson fit the description of a public figure.

"You can't be surprised at the judgment, because it's a very, very difficult to overcome, as a public figure, the standard of actual malice," said spokesman John Wodele, to whom Olson deferred for comment. "But you can't just let something like this go."

Blakely did not rule on whether Brodkorb's reporting was true, but did write that the information and circumstances he had before publishing could objectively lead to his conclusions, even if the evidence was not clear cut.

Blakely also noted that both parties requested that parts of the court file remain sealed, so his order treated the facts in a general way.