Freshwater: Catching up

The last two months in the Freshwater affair in Mt. Vernon, OH, have been quiet. Apparently R. Kelly Hamilton, Freshwater’s lawyer, has been going through the “new evidence” that supposedly turned up in a black bag in a parking lot, hoping to find something to exonerate Mr. Freshwater. Rumor has it that the administrative hearing will resume late this month, though there’s no word yet on whether it will be closed so the mystery witness can testify in safety from the ravening evolutionist hordes.

There has been some progress on another front, though. More below the fold.

Recall that in June 2008 the Dennis family brought a federal suit against Freshwater and the school district. Freshwater filed a counter-claim (pdf) alleging that false and defamatory statements were made against him and that some statements made about him were slanderous. It also alleged that the plaintiffs (the Dennis family) intentionally caused Freshwater emotional distress.

The district settled with the Dennis family, paying legal fees and a token amount for damages. Freshwater remained a defendant in the Dennis’s suit.

The federal judge has now ruled on motions for summary judgments by both sides. The Dennis family had moved to summarily dismiss Freshwater’s counter-claim, while Freshwater had moved to dismiss the original suit. In essence, the judge has ruled that he will allow the Dennis family’s suit against Freshwater to proceed while dismissing Freshwater’s counter-claim that alleged defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress. I hear that the trial on that suit is scheduled to begin in late May.

One interesting bit buried in the judgment is that Freshwater is classed as a “limited purpose public figure” with respect to this matter, and therefore cannot claim damages for public statements about him concerning it unless he can show actual malice on the part of the person making the statement. Even though I have a standing offer of pro bono representation by one of the most respected First Amendment litigators in the country should it become necessary, I was personally a little concerned about that question since I’ve written some pretty critical stuff about Freshwater’s behavior. But that definition of Freshwater considerably raises the bar he must jump to allege defamation and/or slander.

All the legal documents except the most recent ruling are here, and I welcome any qualified legal commentary. I presume the judge’s opinion briefly described here will go up there soon.