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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Suing the NY Times for Pain and Suffering

The question has been raised in the blogosphere whether there is any remedy under law against a news corporation for printing things that reduce or eliminate wartime safeguards, as the NYT Times has done in the last 6 months regarding the NSA monitoring of terrorist communications and the governments monitoring of terrorist money transfers.

The answer is that you can sue pretty much anyone for anything. There are cases which are dismissed out of hand, but rarely are, even if you become a litigious pest – as some people do.

You then have the opportunity for to force them, or their attorneys to appear in court and file motions for dismissal. At which point you can present your case as to why the NY Times has placed you in peril and can ask for class actions status because they have placed an additional 300 million other people in peril based on the same set of circumstances.

Now some people who are not on the cutting edge of civil law can argue that this is ridiculous. But let me give you a counterexample that illustrates how a groundbreaking attorney can - as they say - break new ground. A case was made that stockbrokers, who are typically paid on commission and do not receive a dollar of salary, who work long hours, set their own schedules and who make incomes that place them in the top 5% of all income earners in the US – are non-exempt employees entitled to overtime pay. The very thought of this is insane to people inside the industry. But a lawyer found the rules defining exempt and non-exempt employees and got a court to agree to hear the case. As a result, several major Wall Street Firms settled for literally hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s as if the president of IBM was suddenly allowed to get overtime if he worked past 5 o’clock.

The fact is, that people can feel mental anguish as well of physical peril as the result of the NY Times actions. A case can be made that this corporation has every right to expose us to anguish and danger under the First Amendment (as a part of the free press), but they cannot do this without paying us for that fear and danger.

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