$60K judgment against blogger reversedby Brandt Williams, Minnesota Public Radio
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota State Court of Appeals today overturned a $60,000 judgment against a controversial blogger.
The court of appeals opinion states that the constitutional rights of John Hoff, who blogs under the name Johnny Northside, must be protected, even if a post he wrote resulted in another person losing his job.
According to court documents, the litigation began in 2009 after Hoff wrote a blog entry about Jerry Moore, the former head of a north Minneapolis neighborhood group. Moore had just been fired from his post at the neighborhood group and had started a new position with the University of Minnesota. Hoff wrote that Moore had been implicated in a high-profile mortgage fraud scheme. The university fired Moore shortly after the post was published. Moore sued Hoff for defamation and for interfering with his employment.
Last year, jurors determined Hoff did not defame Moore. However, they believed he did interfere with Moore's employment contract and awarded Moore $60,000.
In the reversal, Judge Jill Halbrooks wrote that Hoff's speech is protected even though he was trying to get Moore fired. "We therefore conclude that there is too great a risk in infringing on Hoff's constitutional right to publish this information if he is held liable for Moore's subsequent employment termination," Halbrook wrote.