Defamation case against state Sen. Wendy Rogers could have big implications for public

Rogers’ attorney, Dominic Draye/Arizona Supreme Court

By Ray Stern | Arizona Republic

Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers’ mud-slinging campaign ad in 2018 could lead to a ground-breaking court ruling on an average person’s ability to sue a public figure who defames them.

In a lively discussion of free-speech rights, the Arizona Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in the lawsuit filed against Rogers by Phoenix modeling business owner Pamela Young, who claims Rogers “unnecessarily tarnished” her reputation and that of the Young Agency.

Rogers, a Flagstaff resident who was elected to the Legislature last year after a decade of failed Congressional races, used the radio ad to attack her Republican primary opponent, Steve Smith, in the race for Congressional District 1. (Democrat Tom O’Halleran ultimately won in the general election.)

The ad labeled Smith, as “a slimy character whose modeling agency specializes in underage girls and advertises on websites linked to sex trafficking.” A former District 11 Arizona lawmaker, Smith is a talent agent and director of Young Agency.

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