BISMARK, N.D. (CN) – The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of the defamation claims of a political activist, in part because he became a limited public figure, the North Dakota Supreme Court ruled.
Roland Reimers sued Rick Mahar for criticizing his support of the Family Law Reform Initiative.
Justice Crothers ruled that Reimers failed to present clear and convincing evidence of the falsehood of Mahar’s statements.
“Mr. Riemers and Mr. Sanderson have no interest whatsoever in children or families,” Mahar wrote in the Walsh County Record. “They are self-absorbed zealots who will stop at nothing to avenge what they perceive to be their ill-treatment by a court system who didn’t happen to see things their way. These initiatives are about power, control, and winning at any cost. They are not about families and children … (Reimers’) attitude seems to be ‘if I do something and it is against the law, then the answer is simple – change the law.'”
Reimers was also required to prove actual malice, because Reimers had assumed a position of prominence in the debate over the state ballot initiative, which he drafted and promoted. He continued his public role when he published an article rebutting Mahar’s criticism.
Crothers wrote that Reimers was required to meet the more stringent standard of defamation because he qualified as a public person who is “intimately involved in the resolution of important public questions.”
Such public figures are able to defend themselves from defamation due to their increased access to the channels of public discourse, the court concluded.