Supreme Court won’t hear Florida Democrat’s defamation appeal

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A defamation lawsuit that controversial former Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) brought against independent political groups over the 2018 election was dismissed by the Supreme Court on May 22.

The formerly high-profile, left-wing, ex-lawmaker represented Florida’s 9th congressional district from 2013 to 2017. He sought the Democrats’ nomination for the seat in August 2018 but lost the primary election. Before that, he represented the state’s 8th congressional district from 2009 to 2011. Grayson attempted a political comeback in 2022 but lost the Democratic Party’s primary for Florida’s 10th congressional district.

The Supreme Court’s new decision in Grayson v. No Labels Inc., court file 22-906, took the form of an unsigned order. The court did not explain why it declined to hear Grayson’s petition. No justices dissented from the order.

Grayson sued respondents No Labels Inc., a nonprofit organization that touts itself as centrist and bipartisan, as well as its founder, Nancy Jacobson, and her husband, Democratic pollster and political consultant Mark Penn, for defamation, defamation by implication, and civil conspiracy. Also sued were two political action committees, Progress Tomorrow Inc. and United Together Inc.

Grayson claimed that in the 2018 campaign the respondents engaged in defamatory political speech opposing his candidacy and that such speech injured him by influencing voters in his district to vote against him, which caused him to lose.

Judge Paul Byron of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama, ruled against Grayson in May 2022.

Byron granted summary judgment against Grayson, finding “there is not even a scintilla of evidence showing—much less clear and convincing proof of—actual malice.”

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, affirmed Byron’s ruling in October 2022, determining that “Grayson submitted no evidence from which a jury might plausibly infer that the defendants” made false statements about Grayson, whether knowingly or recklessly.

Grayson failed to show that the respondents’ campaign literature was based on actual malice, the appeals court said.

“The defendants’ mailings and online postings cite source materials, including an official congressional report, articles in well-known newspapers and magazines, and police reports,” the court said. Relying on multiple independent sources by itself is enough to dismiss any claim of actual malice, the court said.

Some of the campaign material accused him of unethical profiteering and spousal abuse. The material also accused him of using his political office to enrich himself and concealing income in public disclosures. One mailing portrayed him sitting with a drink on a tropical beach and another showed a passport featuring Grayson’s photos with dollar signs for eyes, the court said.

No Labels and the other respondents told the Supreme Court in a brief (pdf) in April that the case was “not worthy of this Court’s review.”

“While Grayson’s petition is full of inflammatory rhetoric, his factual claims are often patently false, he has grossly mischaracterized the lower courts’ rulings, and none of the questions that he proposes were preserved or are properly before the Court.”

No Labels attorney Christopher Man said he was pleased with the new Supreme Court decision.

“Every court that has considered Grayson’s claims has rejected them,” Man, a partner at Winston and Strawn in Washington, told The Epoch Times by email.

“We are glad that the Supreme Court has brought this baseless litigation to an end.”

The Epoch Times reached out for comment to Grayson’s counsel of record, Jason W. Johnson of Winter Park, Florida, but had not received a reply as of press time.

This article by Matthew Vadum appeared May 22, 2023, in The Epoch Times.

Photo: Former U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Florida)