Judge loses her defamation lawsuit in US court

A bronze statue titled "Justice Delayed, Justice Denied" depicting a figure of Justice is seen on the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia
A bronze statue titled "Justice Delayed, Justice Denied" depicting a figure of Justice is seen on the Albert V. Bryan United States Courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
  • Judge Paula Patrick in Pennsylvania sued The Daily Beast over "QAnon-linked" description
  • Patrick has denied any affiliation with the group

May 25 (Reuters) - A U.S. judge has dismissed a Pennsylvania judge's lawsuit that accused media publication The Daily Beast of defaming her for an article headline that stated she was "linked" to the conspiracy group QAnon.

U.S. District Judge Joshua Wolson in Philadelphia on Wednesday ruled that Judge Paula Patrick had not shown The Daily Beast report in October 2021 was the product of "actual malice," a legal threshold needed to sustain an allegation that a news reporter knew information was false and published it anyway.

The report in question, which has remained online, criticized a decision Patrick had issued about a Christopher Columbus statue in Philadelphia. Wolson said Patrick gained attention after a headline-grabbing ruling that said the controversial statue must remain visible.

"Being a judge requires a thick skin and a willingness to make decisions in the face of criticism, even unfair criticism, and to remember that sticks and stones may break my bones, but names can never hurt me," Wolson wrote in his order dismissing Patrick's lawsuit.

Patrick has denied any linkage to QAnon, whose adherents cast Donald Trump as a savior figure.

Her lawyer James Beasley Jr said on Thursday he disputed the court's order and planned to appeal it. He said the judge went too far at an early stage in the case to attempt "to gauge the degree of recklessness used in the article."

A message to Patrick's chambers seeking comment was not immediately returned.

Patrick, a Republican, was elected in 2003 to serve on the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, a trial court. She has heard cases involving juveniles charged with crimes, parental rights and other matters. She lost a run for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in the 2021 primary.

As part of that campaign, Patrick spoke in a taped interview with a QAnon supporter, according to court records. The Daily Beast article noted the interview, and it also said Patrick was named as a speaker at a QAnon-affiliated conference. Patrick "did not attend or speak at this alleged event," her lawsuit stated.

The judge's lawsuit asserted that The Daily Beast headline describing her as "QAnon-linked" was a "knowingly false and outrageous assertion."

Lawyers for The Daily Beast at law firm Ballard Spahr said in a court filing that the article "takes pains to report that Judge Patrick disavowed any connection to QAnon."

A spokesperson for The Daily Beast and lawyers for the publication at Ballard Spahr did not immediately respond to messages on Thursday seeking comment.

The case is Honorable Paula Patrick v. The Daily Beast Company LLC, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 2:22-cv-01520-JDW.

For Patrick: James Beasley Jr of The Beasley Firm

For Daily Beast: Kaitlin Gurney of Ballard Spahr

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