The Connecticut Supreme Court has decided to hear an appeal from a lower court decision condemning broadcaster Alex Jones, a turning point in a case involving families whose relatives had been killed at a school in Newtown, Connecticut, against conspiracy theorists.
Eight families of people shot dead at the Sandy Hook Elementary School and an FBI agent responding to the scene filed a defamation lawsuit against Jones, who runs the Infowars website, focused on conspiracy, and others. The families said they had suffered years of harassment from people who claimed that the 2012 attack was a hoax set up by the government to promote gun control. One of the parents described people accusing him of being a paid actor even before he had buried his 6-year-old daughter.
Jones and other defendants – including several corporations, a conspiracy theorist at Infowars and his partner – defended their right to ask questions and speak freely.
The case is one of many cases across the country brought by family members of Newtown victims, who are increasingly fighting publicly against Jones and conspiracy theories.
Last month, a Connecticut judge punished Jones for two reasons: she said her legal team had failed to produce multiple documents despite repeated orders. And she decried what she described as a "deliberate tirade, harassment and intimidation" of 20 minutes on Jones 'show on the trial and one of the plaintiffs' lawyers.
Judge Barbara Bellis of the Superior Court ordered Jones to pay a portion of plaintiffs' legal fees, told the defendants that they could not proceed with a motion to dismiss and set the date of trial for November 2020.
Norm Pattis, a lawyer for Jones, said Bellis' decision to impose sanctions "was an obscene ridicule of fundamental constitutional values," as the First Amendment had long protected a firm and even offensive rhetoric.
Jones 'lawyers have asked the Connecticut Supreme Court to review Bellis' decision. On Tuesday, Chief Justice Richard A. Robinson allowed their appeal.
"This is very good news for anyone who cares about freedom of expression," said Pattis. One may disagree with Jones, he said, in which case the remedy is not to listen to him. "Silencing the speech is never a good idea," said the lawyer. "Even though we have to sympathize with Sandy Hook's parents, their grief does not give them the right to become censors."
Counsel for the plaintiffs stated in their application to the court: "There is no significant public interest in allowing a litigant to abuse the process of discovery, threatening and harassing the opposing counsel."
Josh Koskoff, a lawyer representing the Sandy Hook families, said in a statement that he was pleased with the review of the case in this case.
"It is more important than ever that the courtroom remain a place of rule of law, court orders, the truth of the truth and the opportunity for litigants to assert their rights without justice or intimidation." no threat, "said Koskoff.
Last month, Chris Mattei, another family lawyer, called the lawsuit against families a classic libel suit.
"Lies have no constitutional value," he said, and there is no legitimate protection for those who reluctantly propagate false information that harms others.
Oral arguments could be heard in the country's Supreme Court in September, according to a spokesman for the Connecticut judiciary.
Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.