One of Flagstiffs readers took the desparate meassure of contacting state officials. According to this readers posting this is what the state official wrote:
I don't know how you got my name, but I'm actually glad you did. I serve as System Counsel and Assistant Attorney General to the Virginia Community College System. It's not often that someone will be as bold as you by publishing defamatory remarks directly to a lawyer. It's clear you don't have a clue about how local board members are chosen and your false statements,which you are using in an attempt to malign Chancellor DuBois' character, could be actionable as defamation per se. This is a warning to you to cease and desist with passing on such false information not only about Dr. DuBois, but also about Dr. Taylor. If you do not, be aware that the VCCS will consider taking legal action. You're not as anonymous as you think you are.
Rita R. Woltz
Virginia Community College System
Flagstiff does not know if this message was in fact written and sent by the person named. However Flagstiff would never on purpose encourage or permit violations of civial or criminal law. This website is for the purpose of providing published facts that may help college employees understand there current situation. The public forum that allows readers to post comments is not there for defamatory remarks. Just the facts, m'am. No names, please. Protect yourself.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. --U.S. Constitution
Defamation and libel
In law, defamation is the communication of a statement that makes a false claim, expressly stated or implied to be factual, that may harm the reputation of an individual, business, product, group, government or nation.
In many, though not all, legal systems, statements presented as fact must be false to be defamatory. Proving a defamatory statement to be true is often the best defense against a prosecution for libel. Statements of opinion that cannot be proven true or false will likely need to apply some other kind of defense.
In most legal systems the courts give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant. In criminal law, he or she is presumed innocent until the prosecution can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt; whereas in civil law, he or she is presumed innocent until the plaintiff can show liability on a balance of probabilities. However, the common law of libel contains a kind of reverse-onus feature: a defamatory statement is presumed to be false unless the defendant can prove its truth. In New York Times v Sullivan (376 U.S. 254, 84 S.Ct. 710 (1964)), the United States Supreme Court changed this traditional feature of the common law with respect to public figures, and ruled that in cases where a public figure was libelled the burden of proof would be on the libeled person (the plaintiff).
Defamation law in the United States is much less plaintiff-friendly than its counterparts in European and the Commonwealth countries.
This is because the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States gives strong protection to freedom of expression, which arose from the tradition of dissent in the American Revolution. For most of the history of the United States, constitutional protections of freedom of speech had no impact on the traditional common law of defamation inherited from the English legal system. This changed with the landmark 1964 case of New York Times v. Sullivan, in which the Supreme Court of the United States announced constitutional restrictions to state defamation law. The court held that where a public official was defamed, the plaintiff had to prove not just that an untruthful statement was made, but also that it was made with "actual malice" - that is, with knowledge of falsity or with reckless disregard for the truth. The "actual malice" standard was subsequently extended to public figures in general, and even to private figure plaintiffs seeking punitive or presumptive damages.
Defamation per se
All states except Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, and Tennessee recognize some categories of statements are considered to be defamatory per se, such that people making a defamation claim for these statements do not need to prove that the statement was defamatory. In the common law tradition, damages for such statements are presumed and do not have to be proven. Traditionally, these per se defamatory statements include:
* Allegations or imputations "injurious to another in their trade, business, or profession"
* Allegations or imputations "of loathsome disease" (historically leprosy and sexually transmitted disease, now also including mental illness)
* Allegations or imputations of "unchastity" (usually only in unmarried people and sometimes only in women)
* Allegations or imputations of criminal activity (sometimes only crimes of moral turpitude)
State of Virginia Department of Accounts Employee Fraud, Waste and Abuse Hotline