Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Griffith v. Wall

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 29, 2017

JONATHAN GRIFFITH APPELLANT
v.
MERLENE WALL APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 06/23/2016

         LAMAR COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. ANTHONY ALAN MOZINGO TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ALEXANDER IGNATIEV

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM L. DUCKER

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., ISHEE AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          ISHEE, J.

         ¶1. Merlene Wall sued Jonathan Griffith for libel and slander, and sought an injunction in the County Court of Lamar County. After a trial on the facts, the county court ruled in favor of Griffith and dismissed the case. Wall appealed the decision to the Lamar County Circuit Court. Wall submitted a brief-raising a new argument not previously asserted at trial; Griffith did not respond to the appeal with a brief. The circuit court held that Griffith's failure to answer and file a brief was a confession of error. And so, the circuit court reversed the decision of the county court and ruled in favor of Wall. Griffith now appeals to this Court, arguing that Wall failed to make out a case for error, and therefore, he was entitled to a summary affirmance. We agree, and accordingly, reverse and render the judgment of the circuit court. The judgment of the county court is reinstated.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Wall was the municipal clerk of Lumberton. Griffith runs the "Lumberton Informer"-a blog which reports on politics and news in Lumberton. Griffith has often been critical of Wall in his posts on the blog. Additionally, the blog allows anyone to publish a comment following a blog entry. These comments may be posted anonymously. In various instances, anonymous comments-addressing Wall-posted to the blog were vulgar and crass.

         ¶3. Wall sued Griffith in the county court for libel and slander, and to enjoin his publication. On June 7, 2015, the county court entered an injunction ordering Griffith, as the publisher of the "Lumberton Informer, " to cease and desist from writing defamatory material about Wall in his publication. A trial was held on October 19, 2015, and a judgment was entered in favor of Griffith. At trial, Wall and Melissa Nightingale-a deputy city clerk-testified that they believed that Griffith was responsible for the anonymous comments posted to his blog. Griffith testified that the comments posted on the blog were moderated by a third party-and thus he was not responsible.

         ¶4. After the trial, the county court issued a written final judgment ruling in Griffith's favor. First, the county court found that Wall was a public figure, and so Griffith possessed a First Amendment right to criticize Wall so long as the comments were not false, and not made with malice. Second, the county court found that there was no evidence of defamatory comments-made by Griffith-in any of his blog posts placed into evidence. Specifically, the county court found that there was no proof that these comments were factually false-most were just opinions. Likewise, the county court found that there was no proof of malice. And third, the county court found that there was insufficient proof in the record to find that Griffith had control over the posting of anonymous comments in his blog-and thus was not responsible for their content. Therefore, the county court found it unnecessary to determine if the anonymous comments were defamatory.

         ¶5. Wall then appealed to the circuit court. Wall filed a brief, arguing that federal law placed on Griffith an affirmative obligation to screen offensive material.[1] Griffith failed to answer and did not file a brief with the circuit court. The circuit court then ruled in favor of Wall-finding that Griffith's failure to participate in the appeal amounted to confession of error. Consequently, the circuit court reversed the county court and found that Griffith did defame Wall. Griffith now appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         ¶6. On appeal, Griffith argues that the circuit court erred by taking his failure to file a brief as a confession of error, rather than summarily affirming the county court. Griffith supports this assertion by ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.