Monday, August 20, 2007

Idle threat of the week

It wasn't uncommon during my elementary school days for someone to accuse another of carrying around the stench of poo. Amidst the laughter of on-lookers, the aggrieved party would then stubbornly refute the charge. This denial would only lead to further accusations and, eventually, Mr. Smelly Pants would declare his intention to sue the parents of his tormentor for some sort of defamation by proxy.

The hysterically stated purpose of the suit would always be to leave said parents so penniless they would be forced to turn over their cackling progeny to an Olivier Twist-like orphanage.

Our founding fathers must have gone to similar elementary schools, because, by addressing free speech in their first of amendments, they set a tone that has resulted in it being practically impossible to sue for defamation of character in the United States of America. Thus keeping our cities free from roving gangs of street urchin pickpockets in tattered clothes.

Last week, from the suddenly volatile world of sports, Kia Vaughn and Barry Bonds both posed challenges to this long legal tradition. Vaughn by taking on the brunt of Don Imus's infamous and team directed "nappy headed hoes" comment and now suing the soon-to-be-back-on-the-air shock jock for slander, libel, defamation and an undisclosed millions of dollars, and Bonds by getting his lawyers to inform fellow all-star Curt Schilling that Schilling should expect a similar set of charges, stemming from the notorious blowhard's nationally televised opinions on their client's steroid taking habits.

If you asked legal experts to add together the percentage chance of each suits success few would come up with a number larger than zero. This is why Kia Vaughn and Barry Bonds will share Idle Threat of the Week for August 13th through 19th.

We should also take a moment to appreciate the elegance of a legal system which makes it so difficult for judges to legislate good taste. Or for the words of Curt Schilling to ever be assigned legally sanctioned authority.

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