Courtney, oh, Courtney: As some had hoped, the much-hyped case brought by your onetime lawyer against you for libel by Twitter — said to be the first such matter to go to trial — ended with an L.A. jury recently showing you some Love and awarding you a victory. Jurors had heard you in the eight-day trial describe yourself as a “computer retard,” inept at tech, upset, and accidentally hitting buttons so you publicly disparaged your counsel for ceasing to represent you. Yes, you killed out that f-bomb laden Tweet. You apparently cleared the bar for actual malice, especially as a social media expert testified on your behalf that there was little to show that your online slam had been re-Tweeted.
But, alas, for your lawyer, just her association with you in a case in which you made claims against the estate of your late husband, rocker Kurt Cobain, well, that had made your counselor a limited public figure. And under existing libel law, of long-standing before anyone coined the notion of “Twibel,” that meant that the attorney-plaintiff in this case had a heavy burden to prevail, see that landmark 40-year-old case involving another unhappy lawyer named Elmer Gertz. So maybe Love’s latest case sets Twitter on par with other means of publishing, offering legal protections to freer expression, some say, and it has led some practitioners who tap social media often as a tool of their trade to offer prophylactic warnings for greater caution and care.
The question, of course, may be whether not one but two bad brushes with the law over intemperate Tweeting — the other described three years ago on this blog over a claim by a fashionista that reportedly was settled for $430,000 –– will prompt Courtney to a new course? Just. Put the device. Down. Dear. Oh, it isn’t happening since there are more than 7,000 Tweets @courtney? “I’ve been Tweeting nicely, like for three years now,” she said outside the courtroom after the verdict.