Do I have a legal right to find out who sent the letter and its contents? I've appealed and its in the process now with the organization. But I'm told its a cut and dry situation and my membership will be denied. I have limited knowledge of what the letter is about. How to I obtain this letter and what are
my options pursuing defamation of character in the courts? Thank you.
You have asked a number of loaded questions. Without knowing what is in the letter and the reasons behind your membership termination, it is impossible to say. If the allegations are false, then you can sue for defamation. Whether or not the person or group is still around after 33 years, or whether there is another party involved is not clear from your summary. It seems as if there is some information you have held back, and that makes it much tougher to answer. If the allegations are true, then truth is an affirmative defense to a defamation action.
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A number of questions would need to be answered before any meanginful assessment of your options could be provided. For example, the type of organization, what its by-laws or applicable membership documents provide for, whether the alleged event was true, etc. However, there are generally legal avenues that could be pursued under similar circumstances to discover the contents of the letter and identity of the author. To assess those avenues, however, you'd need to meet with an attorney.
I'm licensed to practice law in Michigan (www.shinnlegal.com). My response is provided only to educate the public about general issues that should be discussed with competent legal counsel in your state. Under no circumstances should you consider my response as a substitute for consulting an attorney in order to fully understand how the law may apply to your specific and unique circumstances.
Without knowing the circumstances it is impossible to form an opinion. What is your "membership" really worth. What will your loss be if you lose the membership? Is it worth the legal fees?
I understand this is a matter of principal, but be warned, it can be quite expensive.
It the allegations are false you may have an action for defamation, slander or libel if there was a knowing or reckless statement of fact. If, on the other hand, the allegation has a basis in fact then there is a valid and complete defense.
I would suggest you counsel with an attorney about your options.
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