Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

Legal Update: Politicians and Defamation


Tom Fudge:  

Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing.
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
But he that filches from me my good name,
Robs me of that which not enriches him,
And makes me poor indeed.

With those lines from Othello , William Shakespeare probably summed up the damage of libel better than anyone. But in modern America, we have something aside from our good names that we're trying to protect: It's called free speech, expressed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. And for many years, American courts have recognized the need to occasionally tolerate what some people consider to be defamatory speech or publication. We do that in order to preserve the rigorous, dynamic exchange of ideas that is needed in a democracy.

Lately, we've seen some interesting libel cases come before us, including one here in San Diego County. Dan Eaton joins me now to talk about what the law allows when it comes to bad mouthing your fellow citizens.


  • Dan Eaton, San Diego attorney and These Days legal analyst. 

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.