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Surprising no one, Roger Clemens once again gets killed in court

Jul 1, 2009, 9:30 AM EDT

Roger Clemens’ record as a litigant continues to be just as bad as his record as a pitcher was good:

A federal judge in Texas reaffirmed his original dismissal of most
of the claims in Roger Clemens’ defamation suit against former trainer
Brian McNamee, the New York Daily News reported Wednesday.

The decision clears the way for McNamee to pursue his own defamation suit against the former seven-time Cy Young Award winner.

In his opinion, U.S. District Court Judge Keith Ellison wrote that
“if (Clemens) believes that the federal investigators or the Mitchell
Commission overstepped the bounds of the law, he is free to bring suit
against those enemies, subject to possible immunity.”

That last bit refers to the main thrust of McNamee’s defense, which was
that he can’t possibly be sued for defamation because his statements
were made while being questioned by law enforcement. The judge agreed
with that. Which is fine in my mind insofar as it relates to stuff he
said to actual federal agents. I’m not so fine that things he said to
George Mitchell should be privileged on those grounds, though, because
last I checked, Mitchell was acting as an apparatchik for Major League
Baseball’s giant P.R. exercise that was the Mitchell Report, not any
legitimate law enforcement function.

But that’s boring legal stuff. The less-boring implication of all of this is that Clemens’ use of the legal system to serve his own P.R. purposes has now imploded in spectacular fashion. Which I and every lawyer with half a brain said it would way back in January 2008. Let’s review the reasons why we thought this:

Reason #1: Defamation cases are hard to win, especially for celebrities, and even when you do win, the damages are small;

Reason # 2: Defamation lawsuits often create bigger audiences
for the false statements than the false statements enjoyed in the first
place, and have the added negative effect of opening up one’s life and
reputation to scrutiny;

Reason # 3: Even if the statements made by the defamer really
are false, the plaintiff — Clemens in this case — stands a good
chance of whiffing on one of the other essential elements of the suit
or some other technicality. When that happens the public only hears
about the loss, and concludes that the defendant was telling the truth
even if he wasn’t.

To review the bidding: Clemens has lost the suit; Clemens’
embarrassing and often shameful personal life came to light as a result
of the suit; and even though Clemens’ loss is on technical grounds as
opposed to some judgment that he was actually lying, from now until the
end of history, people will reasonably assume that he was, in fact, the
liar (not that they didn’t assume that anyway).

So once again, allow me to congratulate Roger Clemens — and his colossally-awful lawyer, Rusty Hardin — for their spectacular work. Well done, gentlemen, well done indeed!

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  3. Chas Perona - Feb 4, 2010 at 11:27 PM

    What and how do public records work when it comes to businesses selling access to gigantic databases?

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