By Sydney Ember | The New York Times
When Donald J. Trump said in February that he would “open up our libel laws” if he became president to make it easier to sue news organizations for unfavorable coverage, the declaration sent shock waves through the media world.
But could he actually do it?
The simple answer is yes, but it would be complicated. And assuming the established procedures to change laws hold, it would also be extremely difficult.
“The First Amendment has been under duress from both sides of the aisle (from establishment of safe spaces on public college campuses to limiting the freedom of press that President-elect Trump is essentially proposing here). As properly noted here, however, constraining or limiting constitutional protections is incredibly difficult.
“Indeed, judges of all political leanings are typically reticent to recognize limits on the right to free speech (and defamation laws constitute such a limit). Although Trump realized many surprising political feats to date, it is a truly daunting task, if not wholly impossible, to strengthen defamation laws in our country.
“One ancillary approach would be to impose laws providing for an award of greater damages in cases involving defamation. But even then, the shield of First Amendment and state law protections would ensure that it remains difficult to successfully prosecute a defamation claim, even if the risk itself is made greater due to the threat of stiffer penalties.”