- Sep 30, 2014
- Athens, Greece
Court of Cassation Rejects Group Defamation Claim by Taxi Drivers, Lawyers Against Comedian
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Propontis, 17 December 2019 | Trikalinos Iordanes
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The main building of the Court of Cassation, Pelasgia’s final civil and criminal court of appeal
The Court of Cassation, Pelasgia’s highest civil and criminal court, has rejected an attempt by the Propontis Taxi Drivers’ Union and the Propontis Bar Association to institute group defamation proceedings against Elias Lambropoulos, a notoriously provocative late-night comedian. According to the press statements by both professional associations, Mr. Lambropoulos made “untrue negative comments regarding the plaintiffs, with an extremely prejudicial effect to their reputation” during a segment on his widely popular late-night comedy show “Elias’ Emporium”. The segment, titled “The Greatest Crooks of Pelasgian Society”, made several scathing comments against lawyers and taxi drivers, who were referred to as “money-hungry crooks that’d defend their own sisters’ violators for a few thousand obols an hour” and “stinky, uneducated know-it-alls, who’d tell an astronaut they’d been to Mars if he told them he'd just came back from the Moon”, respectively. Lambropoulos, who has been repeatedly fined by the Pelasgian Broadcasting Council for his vulgar and inappropriate remarks in the past, maintains that his claims are protected by freedom of the press and speech, and thus fall within the legal defence of fair comment, due to the public interest in protecting his speech.
The Court declined to agree with either side’s substantive arguments, instead focusing on a procedural matter: in the Pelasgian civil law, defamation is an individual, not a collective wrong, and can only be claimed by individual persons, whether natural or legal. Given that Mr. Lambropoulos named neither professional association as a legal person, but instead referred to individual natural persons who may or may not be members of the said associations, the two groups cannot institute an action in defamation against the defendant via uninterested third parties, who have not received mandatory power from the said groups’ members. As the class action is equally unknown to the Law of Pelasgia, the Court concluded, that remedy too cannot be sought, outside of limited, statutorily-prescribed cases. Though individual lawyers or taxi drivers might still seek a claim in defamation, their chances of success would be slim, given that Mr. Lambropoulos did not name any persons in particular, according to legal specialists.
The ruling has seen a mixed reception from the legal community, and Pelasgian society at large. The Dean of Law at the University of Propontis, Avgoustinos Harmenopoulos, hailed the decision as upholding the proper doctrine of defamation in the civil law tradition, without falling prey to influences from other traditions, particularly the Engell common law and its emphasis on class actions for all sorts of wrongs. By contrast, the General Council of Israelite Communities, the largest body representing the Pelasgian Jewish communities, expressed its dismay at the decision; the Council has long hoped to use group defamation as a means to counter anti-Semitic propaganda, and sought to intervene in the case citing public interest, unsuccessfully. The Ministry of Justice has not commented on the decision, citing the principles of separation of powers, judicial independence and the rule of law. Debates among legislators in the Legislative Council this week have made it clear that the government has no intention of altering defamation laws or increasing the scope of class actions, limited as it is, in the Pelasgian legal system.
In other news
☞ (Politics) – The Government of Pelasgia has warned airport workers against a strike, after talks between state-owned Propontis International Airport S.A. and the General Union of Airport Workers broke down on Monday, over the workers’ retirement benefits. Wishing to avoid a major disruption in both passenger and cargo traffic as the Christmas holiday season approaches, the Government has hinted at declaring any sudden strike illegal.
☞ (Law & Order) – Pelasgian Politarchy troopers shoot man dead during a traffic stop gone bad at a routine checkpoint, near the Propontis-Kerasond highway. When motioned to stop, the man allegedly attempted to run Politarchy troopers over, driving into a nearby storm shelter, before exiting the vehicle and opening fire. One Politarchy trooper was lightly wounded, while the attacker was shot twelve times, leading to his near-instantaneous death.
☞ (Religion) – The Ecumenical Patriarch has hinted at a potential early retirement in recent statements, leading to rumours that a new Patriarchal election might be close. The Ecumenical Patriarch, who is approaching eighty years of age, has found himself embattled and embittered after the repeated criticism of his reforms and policy by other leading Bishops. April’s failed talks regarding the relations between the Orthodox Church and the Pelasgian State, and the latter’s seizure of Church property, were a major source of embarrassment for His All-Holiness.