Crystal Cox, Oregon Blogger, Isn't a Journalist, Concludes U.S. Court--Imposes $2.5 Million Judgement on Her
By Curtis Cartier
December 6 2011
A U.S. District Court judge in Portland has drawn a line in the sand between "journalist" and "blogger." And for Crystal Cox, a woman on the latter end of that comparison, the distinction has cost her $2.5 million.
Speaking to Seattle Weekly, Cox says that the judgement could have impacts on bloggers everywhere.
"This should matter to everyone who writes on the Internet," she says.
Cox runs several law-centric blogs, like industrywhistleblower.com, judicialhellhole.com, and obsidianfinancesucks.com, and was sued by investment firm Obsidian Finance Group in January for defamation, to the tune of $10 million, for writing several blog posts that were highly critical of the firm and its co-founder Kevin Padrick.
Representing herself in court, Cox had argued that her writing was a mixture of facts, commentary and opinion (like a million other blogs on the web) and moved to have the case dismissed. Dismissed it wasn't, however, and after throwing out all but one of the blog posts cited by Obsidian Financial, the judge ruled that this single post [ http://www.bankruptcycorruption.com/2010/12/kevin-padrick-of-obsidian-finance-group.html ] was indeed defamatory because it was presented, essentially, as more factual in tone than her other posts, and therefore a reasonable person could conclude it was factual.
The judge ruled against Cox on that post and awarded $2.5 million to the investment firm.
Now here's where the case gets more important: Cox argued in court that the reason her post was more factual was because she had an inside source that was leaking her information. And since Oregon is one of 40 U.S. states including Washington with media shield laws, Cox refused to divulge who her source was.
But without revealing her source Cox couldn't prove that the statements she'd made in her post were true and therefore not defamation, or attribute them to her source and transfer the liability.
Oregon's media shield law reads:
No person connected with, employed by or engaged in any medium of communication to the public shall be required by ... a judicial officer ... to disclose, by subpoena or otherwise ... [t]he source of any published or unpublished information obtained by the person in the course of gathering, receiving or processing information for any medium of communication to the public[.]
The judge in Cox's case, however, ruled that the woman did not qualify for shield-law protection not because of anything she wrote, but because she wasn't employed by an official media establishment.
From the opinion by U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez:
. . . although defendant is a self-proclaimed "investigative blogger" and defines herself as "media," the record fails to show that she is affiliated with any newspaper, magazine, periodical, book, pamphlet, news service, wire service, news or feature syndicate, broadcast station or network, or cable television system. Thus, she is not entitled to the protections of the law
Cox tells Seattle Weekly that she plans to appeal the ruling by proving her assertion that Obsidian co-founder Kevin Padrick is guilty of bankruptcy fraud--a statement that, as Cox is quite proud of, is abundantly advertised if one simply Googles Padrick's name [ https://www.google.com/search?q=Kevin+Padrick ] and sees the dozens of Cox's posts that spring up about him.
At this point Cox says that she still has no plans to get a lawyer.
We think that's a bad idea.
UPDATE: Attorney Bruce E. H. Johnson, the man who wrote the media shield laws in Washington state, has weighed in on whether Cox's fate would fly here. Read more here [ http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/12/unlike_oregon_bloggers_are_jou.php ].
ANOTHER UPDATE: Kevin Padrick, the defamed co-founder of Obsidian Finance Group, has responded to the story. Read more here [ http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/12/kevin_padrick_responds_to_crys.php ].
Cox unfortunately left herself wide open in the story cited here, on which damages
While the judge puts a lot of issues into play involving the First Amendment, truth is usually a fine defense. But Cox accused her subject of crimes that do not appear to be proven in a poorly constructed story. She may have proof but appears unable to show any; and whether or not her source comes forward does not necessarily prove it either way.
A writer may THINK someone is a thief, thug and liar but if you are going to charge such a thing in a serious manner - a key element, apparently, in the judge's thinking - and readers are therefore likely to take it serious, then you must have the goods.
While anonymous commentators seem to have no boundaries in cyberspace, the risks for bloggers, as with news reporters, rise when they resort to accusations of law breaking without absolute proof - and in this case compounding the issue by ignoring desist requests, essentially, a challenge to put up or shut up, of which she did neither.
She was practically asking to be sued, then compounded that, as well, by acting as her own attorney. I wish her well but she clearly needs the advice of counsel if she plans an appeal.
By Crystal L. Cox
I was not allowed to show my proof, the judge said it was heresay, here is my Trial Documents he threw out.
By TV-Tastic [ http://twitter.com/TVTastic ]
That's because it IS hearsay unless you have the witness to testify as to it
in order to authenticate the material IN COURT. Why do you not have
representation? You obviously aren't an attorney if you think unsubstantiated
documents are "proof." BTW, your blog is nearly unreadable.
That being said, as dopey and unintelligible as your blog is, I'm not sure how you didn't qualify for media-shield protection under the element that specifically protects ANYONE engaged in ANY medium of communication to the public. I mean that's a pretty specific definition. There's nothing vague that needs to be interpreted and it makes it clear that being employed by a established media outlet is not necessarily a requirement. It's doubtful that this will stand on appeal but you really should get an attorney. You can't fight this alone and it's going to bankrupt you and you really need to pay for writing lessons.
EDIT: Nevermind... you're out of luck. If you had a lawyer they would have known what the definition of "any person engaged in any medium" was, just like I would have had I read the damned ruling. This still could be appealed federally, though, as it is a constitutional issue. Again, get a lawyer.
By Dan Arles
Anyone who reps himself or herself in court has an idiot for a client. Sorry, but that is the truth. Hopefully she will get a proper First Amendment lawyer and get it overruled on appeal.
By Crystal L. Cox
I had to represent myself for the greater good, now the story gets noticed. Now the Truth will come out and the Victims I fight for will have a bigger voice. As a Pro Se Defendant, I had a front row seat as to how it works and how the law is irrelevant, and I got to write my own motions and introduce information that can be used in future cases to hopeful indict them for I truly do believe that Tonkon Torp Law Firm and Obsidian Finance Group, Kevin Padrick were involved in illegal activities in the Summit Bankruptcy... my Goal is to expose this corruption in effort to protect the Victims.. this case does that, even if I sounded long winded here and there, was redunant or screwed up, still I did it and future cases will uncover this information that if I had an attorney I would not have gotten into Pacer, into the legal system to use later to hopefully indict them and to file a Federal RICO Lawsuit proving pattern and history.
By 98 Interzone
Guess the judge forgot about this little case. Bloggers ARE journalists.
By Crystal L. Cox
I gave Judge Marco Hernandez this Case and over 500 pages of documents of my Source and He would not let me use any of it in his Trial.
By Eric Lortie
There is a tremendous amount of money willing to back the sentiment that
bloggers are not journalist. Hell, there's a tremendous amount of money that
would be willing to back the idea that bloggers aren't people.
Hopefully this decision gets crushed in the appeals process. But Cox should stop acting so extreme and get a lawyer.
By Crystal L. Cox
I acted extreme for a reason for the greater good, I do intend to Lawyer up as this case affects Millions and I intend to do the right thing by all as I have always intended to give voice to those affected by Corruption.
What constitutes an actual reputable "news agency? A business license? Did this woman have one. This should definitely be repealed because if she is not considered an official "source for journalism then she is an individual and her right to free speech is being violated. It also sets an amazing precedent...one that could have major repercussions for bloggers worldwide. My suggestion is that she get her a big named lawyer who can do some pro-bono work or work with the ACLU on this.
By Crystal L. Cox
I do not have a business license, I have over 400 blogs, I do this full time and have for over five years. I take interviews, research deeply, gather information, and get stories sent to me. I am legally Media, and this is what I do Full Time for a Living. I will be working with an Attorney and I appreciate your comment, please know my intentions were and are to give voice to those violated by the judicial system, to give voice to victims and to expose those who violate their constitutional rights. I do this by Front and Center internet placement in telling their story to get them heard... Thank You for your Time here..
Good for the Judge! Just because someone can spew words onto website does not make them a Journalist. Did they go to a school of Journalism and get a degree? I've tired of people passing themselves off as a someone who actually spent years of training doing the same... and there are MANY examples in America of the "watering down" of careers into entry-level mediocre positions. Take for example: Many years ago Barbers and Beauticians use to have to go to a full-time accredited school and spend years learning their skills. Now any run-of-the-mill technical school can take you for all of your available government grant money and spit out an incompetent boob and call them "graduated".... where upon they embark on their life-long career at Supercuts ! There's no difference with so-called "bloggers". Both examples are amateur wanna-bes!
By Crystal L. Cox
Years of Training.. really hmmm.. Well Doctors Spend Years Training and yet people are dying of cancer when there are Thousands of Cures for Cancer, I am a researcher and in this people I know have cured themselves of cancer without doctors.. I learn more by self study then college every teaches.. and Sir.. I can get on top of the search engine for pretty much any story, person, company i write about and often in a matter of minutes, i am self taught and have put all my money and life into this and I am Damn Good at what I do.. make sure you don't leak me your real name or I WILL take over the search engines and you will not even see it coming.. See No Degree in Journalism needed as I am a READER.. and well I get this here internet thing even if you don't like my Hillbilly Twang.. and if you think I am a wanna be.. well asshole I am better at this then you that is for sure.. no one sued you for 10 Million RIGHT? Guess your a wanna be ????
Well everybody, it looks like she's proven my point very eloquently (oops, maybe I should use simpler words)! "I can get on top of a search engine..." big deal, anyone who knows how to really use computers can do that. "I'm self-taught..." that's self-evident as you possess neither the professionalism or restraint to respond to criticism. Plenty of people in ALL professions fail, but going through the PROPER education ensures a higher percentage of true Journalists adhere to PROVEN standards, proper use of grammar and spelling, true editing and proofreading (something sorely lacking with most people nowadays... ESPECIALLY bloggers), verifiable sources and documentation and have the MATURITY to perform their jobs. The internet has allowed uneducated twits the ability to spew whatever they want. What next? shall we all use "txtspeek" because we didn't learn the right way? As far as your threat, I've been using computers far longer than you and will always know more then how to simply seed a search engine. Child's play.
There seems to be an incredible blunder here, no doubt facilitated by the lack of representation for Ms. Cox. The judge wanted her to be 'affiliated?' The simplest blog requires 'affiliation' of some type with a media company: how else is the blog even there? The judge appears to be oblivious to the fact that Google, Yahoo, Wordpress etc offer bandwidth to sell advertisements. They are virtual newspapers as most people recognize and hence 'media' with which Ms. Cox was clearly 'engaged.' Absurd. It almost seems like legal malpractice that Obsidian even advanced their claim. And it almost seems that there should be a basis for Ms. Cox to counter with a claim for damages from tortious interference with the production of truth.
By Crystal L. Cox
Yes and I twitter, and am in news feeds.. This was clearly a discrimination.. to Exclude me as Media and take ALL of my Trial exhibits away, this judge tied my hands to let them win.. I had no case after he threw out of 500 pages of my proof of my source.
marduk191 [ http://twitter.com/marduk191 ]
Good freaking god...somebody send this girl some recommendations for lawyers. This judge is an idiot. If you want to get around this technical legal BS then use a free blog host on google or something. That makes you affiliated with a news service/periodical/..yadda yadda. That also covers multiple instances that were charged because they allow bandwidth/space in return for displaying ads.. This is ridiculous. Go back to watching FOX news now... at least they are a trusted news source.. *I hope you felt the sarcasm there*.
By Crystal L. Cox
Thank You I am Getting Enquiries from Lawyers.. Blessings to you.
Good luck. Shield law is only half your problem. Welcome to responsibility in
publishing - as reporters, we are stopped from making accusations like that
unless we are 100 percent confident in our sources, and we run it past lawyers
first -- and, of course, large organizations have retained counsel.
I appreciate the supplemental coverage bloggers provide but I always knew there would be an intersection between their bold statements and legal defamation torts.
By Crystal Cox
Shield Laws are half Yes, but with Media Standing comes Actual Malice and I did NOT have Actual Malice.
From her previous comments, Cox fails to understand law in any meaningful sense. Whether she's right or wrong, she's gone into this like a batter who just wants to swing hard at every pitch--with no sense of how the game is played, or won. She struck out, and now blames the umpire, when she needed to get a coach. I'd say the same about her use of language: she is a self-styled media professional, but doesn't seem to have taken the time or effort to understand how language is used by professionals--or how they understand their ethics, their duties, or their obligations. Again, I don't know if she's legally right--but she's in this mess, I suspect, because she shoots first too often, and without knowing what she's doing.
By Crystal L. Cox
I did not strike out. I got them to admit things I wanted them to on the
stand. I will hopefully see them indicted or at least under investigation. Yes I
was a Batter, I have never been pro se and I did the best I could to fight back
in a way that created a trail of words for future use, and to expose the
injustice in the US bankruptcy courts. I am not in a MESS Sir, I don't have 2.5
Million Dollars, and I do believe the Plaintiff acted outside of the law as the
Trustee of a 40 Million dollar bankruptcy. There is no coach for what I do, and
I don't blame the Umpire, if the Judge is what you mean, I am simply calling out
points of law and asking questions. Ya I Lost, but guess what Millions of you do
the same thing every day and if my case sets precedence So Will You.
I give voice to victims and ya sometimes I sound like a fool, thing is I have put all my time and money into this voice to the voiceless for over five years, I am passionate about exposing corruption in the courts and exposing lawyers, judges, cops, and the Law that does not abide by the law. I did not purposely defame, though I am over the top at times, I admit however if I was not I never would have got those victims heard.
I get new stories daily, I carry their voice and I do not take that lightly.. I do not consider this a Loss.. They got a Judgement, So What, the Blog post is still up and they did not get what they really wanted.. and they most likely never will..
I am not trying to fit in or be like other media, I am an EXPERT at Search Engine placement and I do not have to use the proper language, capitalize where the masses think I should... I am damn good at search engine placement because of the way I write.. I do not ever intend to use "language" the way the masses think I should.. but I do appreciate the constructive remarks.. though my Style Will Remain the Same. ..
Crystal, I'm unclear. Earlier you stated that you offered your source info to
the judge; in his decision he makes no reference to that. In fact, he
specifically mentions that your defense briefs included specific claims of
eligibility for shield law which protects you from naming sources.
Did you inadvertently make that claim and then also supply the source? I'm confused. Eventually, though, your case lost on merit, and no liability was transferred or shared. This makes shield law moot for you.
I suspect your biggest error (besides the inflammatory statement) was believing you were fit to represent yourself without benefit of a trained lawyer.
By Crystal L. Cox
I know he makes no reference, my Deadline was November 22nd to send in my Trial Documents, I worked hard on them. And had them in on time, and in this was a large exhibit that provided detailed information of what my source was. There was a Hearing the Day before the Trial and the Judge told me I could not use any of it for it was Here say. He also said the bankruptcy whistleblower blog that was my main source was not allowed as it was heresay, though I had 3rd party blog protection. After my Trial the Court Returned the Exhibits and the Jury on saw 4 pages out of over 800. Plus I send a disc with videos and documents of a judicial proceeding that was a source that contained internal emails, and documents of proof to the best of my knowledge from many insiders in the Summit Bankruptcy and none was admitted.. the Day of the Trial I was told I could not use the Judicial Proceeding or the Depositions, and therefore I had no case and my hands were tied so I simply questioned there witnesses in a way to use in the future to possibly indict them for their activities in the Summit Bankruptcy.
By Crystal L. Cox
I certainly was fit to represent myself and I did a damn good job. I
recommend that everyone go pro se and lawyer up for the appeal, this way you get
to introduce more elements into the case and others pick up the case and
whatever you right in your motions to the court is then under "Absolute
Privilege" as a matter of law and can't be considered defamation. I fought a
good battle and I introduced tons of information that will later be used to
further the story. I did not want to say, I have a right to say what ever I
want. I wanted to make the statement that I am Media, I posted the truth to the
best of my ability and I was never asked to retract. I wanted to be Pro Se and I
Did It. I believe I did a better job then a lawyer could have for this first
step, and it took a year that would have cost over $60,000 with as many
documents as the Plaintiff's Blathering Attorney kept filing. I am proud of the
Job I did, and Stand in my Truth with Honor and Dignity.
The reason shield laws are important is that yes I provided a source, but the point is if I am determined legally as media then they have to prove I had actual malice, another words that I posted the information knowingly of it being false, that is the key. I did not post that subject post with "Actual Malice".