Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Tom Stienstra v Tom Chandler: Blogger Wins Suit

Tom Stienstra Loses Lawsuit v Chandler
Trout Underground Claims Victory in Tom Stienstra Lawsuit
A couple of months ago I learned that blogger and fly fisherman, Tom Chandler, was being sued by a well known California outdoor writer. In March 2010, Tom Stienstra, was arrested after the Siskiyou County Sheriff "seized 60 marijuana plants, 11.1 pounds of processed marijuana, scales, packaging materials and other paraphernalia from the barn and the home" of Tom Stienstra, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. 

At the time, the arrest garnered significant attention from local media. Tom Chandler also posted a story about the arrest in April 2010 on the Trout Underground blog. Tom Stienstra was not ultimately charged with a crime according to an article on (The Record Spotlight).

Earlier this year, Tom Stienstra took exception to Tom Chandler's post on the Underground. Tom Stienstra filed a lawsuit seeking $10,000 in damages.

The results off the suit were announced last week and the ruling was in favor of defendant Tom Chandler. Yesterday, Chandler wrote about his point of view on the victory. It turns out that the ruling turned on the fact that the statute of limitations (1 yr in this case) had expired. No ruling was made on the facts presented though one might infer from the ruling's discussion of the merits that things would have ultimately gone in Chandler's favor.

I was watching this case because it presents a close-to-home example of First Amendment rights associated with blogs. Clearly, one can't go spreading lies about someone and expect to walk away free from harm. But what was reported on the Trout Underground appears solidly rooted in fact and was in all ways similar to what other media outlets (including the ones quoted in the Chandler article) were reporting.

The First Amendment lives on to fight another day.

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