The Texas Supreme Court last week issued a ruling that could change how Texas lawyers fight defamation in the internet age.
The State Supremes ruled in the case of Robert Kinney, a Texas legal recruiter for BCG Attorney Search, Inc. who left the firm in 2004 to start a competing venture. Some time later, BCG's president Andrew Barnes posted a warning of sorts on the websites JDJournal.com and Employmentcrossing.com accusing Kinney of taking part in a kick-back scheme while at BCG. Barnes claimed he'd uncovered evidence that Kinney attempted to pay a recruiter at competing firms under the table to hire one of his candidates. Barnes says he fired Kinney immediately upon discovering the kickback scheme.
Kinney insists that's all false. The case landed in Travis County court when Kinney sued Barnes, BCG and two subsidiaries for defamation. The case entered questionable First Amendment territory when Kinney asked the court for a permanent injunction ordering Barnes to remove the (allegedly, since his case hasn't yet been decided) defamatory statements from his websites, to contact any third-party publishers and ask them to scrub the defamatory statements from their websites, to "conspicuously post a copy" of the court order on Barnes' website, to publicly retract said defamatory statements, and to issue a letter of apology that would appear on Barnes' website for six months. (Kinney has since dropped his request for an apology and retraction from Barnes.)