Can an attorney commit defamation/false light by knowingly making a false comment against the opposing party in a filing?

Asked over 2 years ago - Tempe, AZ

If an attorney knowingly makes a written false statement about an opposing Pro Se party within a Motion/Response (or any Court filing) that is also materially unrelated to the litigation itself, and makes the statement simply as a means of negatively portraying the Pro Se party to the judge, can the attorney be sued by the opposing Pro Se party for either false light or defamation? Or, do court filings not count as published material when it comes to false light/defamation claims?

Attorney answers (4)

  1. Edward C. Hopkins Jr.

    Pro

    Contributor Level 12

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    Answered . You should speak with an Arizona attorney who litigates defamation and false light invasion of privacy claims. This area of law is complex and only a few attorneys practice it regularly. (I'm one of them). A good answer to your questions would require more than a few paragraphs.

    Arizona recognizes an absolute judicial privilege. This privilege applies to attorneys and parties involved in litigation. For the judicial privilege to apply, the recipient of the communications must have a direct interest in the litigation or possess evidentiary information directly relevant to it.

    The cases I list below explain what the judicial privilege is and how it works in Arizona. You should be able to find and read them if you search for them using Google Scholar.

    Hall v. Smith, 214 Ariz. 309 (App. 2007)
    Ashton-Blair v. Merrill, 187 Ariz. 315 (App. 1996)

  2. Paul E Knost

    Contributor Level 16

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    Answered . Regardless of whether there is an actionable libel suit, any lawyer who knowingly makes false statements, whether it is in writing or verbally, has committed an ethical violation.

    The key word is "knowingly"

    Take a look at the Rules of Professional Conduct which govern us lawyers.

    ER 4.1 requires a lawyer to be truthful in statements to others.
    ER 3.3 prohibits a lawyer from making a false statement of law or fact to a tribunal (court)

    But keep in mind, that lawyers make statements all of the time that the other party disagrees with. If a lawyer has a reasonable basis for believing something is true, then it is not a situation where the lawyer is knowingly making a false statement. So you will want to ask yourself if the statements are something you really disagree with, or if they are indeed lies and patently false.

    Here is a link to the rules I discussed above.

    NONE OF THE INFORMATION PROVIDED HERE IS MEANT AS, NOR INTENDED AS LEGAL ADVICE. THE LAW IS CONSTANTLY... more
  3. Christian K. Lassen II

    Pro

    Contributor Level 20

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    Answered . The latter is correct.

    The answer does not create an attorney-client relationship and is for informational purposes only.

    Lassen Law Firm
    1515 Market St #1510
    Philadelphia, PA 19102
    215-510-6755
    http://www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com

    Licensed in PA & NJ. 29% Contingency Fee. Phone: 215-510-6755 www.InjuryLawyerPhiladelphia.com
  4. Christopher Daniel Leroi

    Contributor Level 20

    1

    Lawyer agrees

    Answered . A statement by an attorney in a complaint does not amount to a libelous or defamatory statement. It is their opinion of what they can prove.

    The information provided in this answer does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you are interested in... more

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