It is an undeniable fact that litigation to cure attacks on one's reputation can be a counterproductive affair. Consider the case of Michael Patrick Leahy, the self-proclaimed "top conservative on twitter." Mr. Leahy, who styles himself a leader of the anti-tax "Tea Party" movement, was stung by leftwing blogger Stephanie Grasmick's revelation that Leahy, when not acting as the "top conservative on twitter," allegedly has a sideline gig as an "insane douchenozzle," a "member of an insane race of lizard people," and a "major tax fraud."
So he's suing Ms. Grasmick for libel and invasion of privacy.
You may view Ms. Grasmick's post, which as of this date includes a Nexis judgment search indicating that someone named Michael Patrick Leahy appears to have tens of thousands of dollars in unpaid federal tax liens against his name, by clicking here. Unfortunately all of the sites at which copies of the suit itself were available were filthy hotlinkers, linking directly to Mr. Leahy's site rather than reposting it on their own sites, and Leahy has removed his copy, so I can't comment directly on the suit.
But others have reprinted some of the allegations. And a curious mess it is. Mr. Leahy, who fancies himself a leading conservative, appears not to realize that this makes him open to the charge that he is a public figure, who must prove that Ms. Grasmick, in calling him an insane douchenozzle, a lizard person, and a major tax fraud, did so with actual malice, knowing her statements were false, and that her statements were not "fair comment".
That's going to be very difficult to prove. Fair comment takes care of the first two statements (assuming that being called a douchenozzle and a lizard person are defamatory where Leahy lives). As for "major tax fraud" well, I suppose that's a question of degree. Perhaps the argument will go that, in top conservative tea-party circles, it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid tax liens, rather than mere tens of thousands of dollars, to make one a "major" tax fraud. Assuming that Leahy is correctly identified as the party who owes these liens, he's merely a "minor" tax fraud.
That would be an interesting argument indeed, but I question whether it will carry much water in a court, before a judge or jurors, who in my experience are unsympathetic even to minor tax frauds, to say nothing of allegedly insane douchenozzles and alien lizard people.
As for the invasion of privacy, well, it's another unfortunate fact that judgments and tax liens are public records. Indeed, that's one of the very points of obtaining a judgment or a lien: to warn those considering property transactions or secured loans with the defendant that a superior claim exists to the defendant's property.
Of course, some plaintiffs file lawsuits for goals other than the vindication of rights. If the point of Mr. Leahy's suit was simply to retaliate against Ms. Grasmick, even in the absence of a good cause of action, that's a good argument for fee-shifting statutes and court sanctions. Punishing frivolous litigation is a goal any "top conservative" would support.
If the point of the suit was simply to attract public attention to Mr. Leahy himself, even if it's the attention the public accords to insane douchenozzles, members of alien races of lizard people, and major tax frauds, I'd say he's accomplished that goal in spades.
Update: A well-meaning person steered me to a copy of Mr. Leahy's (pro se) complaint, which I've reposted here: leahy-v-grasmick-complaint I'll have more thoughts on the complaint later today, in comments. For now, I'll just post a link to an article on the meaning of the term "pro se" and allow readers to draw their own conclusions from that.