(Elkhart County, IN) - The La Porte County Auditor has lost the first round in his legal battle with the county attorney.
Tim Stabosz filed a motion to dismiss the defamation of character lawsuit filed against him by Shaw Friedman in February. He argued the case was frivolous, in part, because comments against a public official like Friedman are protected speech.
Yesterday, a judge denied his motion to dismiss the case. Judge Stephen Bowers from Elkhart County pointed to things like Stabosz not offering proof that Friedman runs county government by controlling elected officials and is corrupt, as Stabosz has alleged.
The judge also ruled there is evidence to suggest the allegations from Stabosz were possibly made with malice, which is not protected speech and potentially defamatory.
“Stabosz’s verification, self-serving though it may be, that he truly believed the defamatory statements he made against Friedman when he made them is sufficient to shift the burden of proof of Friedman. However, Friedman has designated evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Stabosz actually believed his accusations were true,” Bowers said in his written ruling.
Specifically, the judge ruled Friedman pointed out that Stabosz, if he believed his allegations, would have gone to the proper authorities but has not.
Bowers also granted a motion by Friedman to amend his complaint against Stabosz. Initially, the defamation complaint was based on an e-mail to the commissioners from Stabosz suggesting Friedman in calling him corrupt, not be hired as county attorney. However, the judge is giving Friedman permission now to use comments Stabosz made later against him as additional evidence to substantiate his defamation claims.