Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

About a 2001 lawsuit

originally written and posted in Sept. 2013; lightly edited and re-published here in 2015 .

When my 2013 book, Into the Dustbin, was discussed by Judith Curry and Anthony Watts on their respective blogs, a person named Grant A. Brown left comments suggesting I lost my job with the National Post as a result of a defamation lawsuit.

This is untrue. The short version of events is as follows:

  • As an employee of the National Post, I wrote an article that was carefully vetted by the newspaper’s libel lawyer prior to publication in April 2001.
  • A secondary individual discussed in the article refused to answer questions e-mailed to him while it was in progress. His response was to engage a lawyer who threatened legal action. After the article was published, this same individual filed a libel lawsuit.
  • In September 2001, the National Post was sold. Within weeks, more than 100 of us received severance packages and were laid off.
  • Afterward, the Post offered me a twice-monthly columnist gig – an offer I declined. Since then, it has published material written by me.
  • In 2009, the lawsuit was settled and the complainant received a sum of money. This had a great deal to do with the fact that the insurance company involved (newspapers purchase libel insurance) felt that the costs associated with going to trial would be greater than the cost of settling.
  • The settlement paperwork contains no admission of wrongdoing on my part.

It isn’t unusual for an investigative journalist to be threatened with lawsuits and, indeed, to be sued. What is unusual is that someone who says he worked on the other side as a lawyer (I don’t remember him, but the complainant cycled through a number of lawyers between 2001 and 2009), hasn’t moved on.

Twelve years after the article was published and four years after a legal settlement was reached, Grant A. Brown is saying untrue things about my 2001 departure from the National Post in an attempt to dissuade people from buying my books. He is trying to harm my ability to earn a living.

This is not professional conduct.

.

For those interested in more detail, the article involved a disbarred lawyer who’d been elected vice president of a fathers’ rights group. The following is an excerpt:

In 1996, Mr. Adams, a practising lawyer, was arrested after he approached one of his clients, a 16-year-old prostitute, for sex. He pleaded guilty, received a 15-month conditional sentence, and was disbarred in 1998. Unanimously upholding his disbarment in September, 2000, three Alberta Court of Appeal judges noted that Mr. Adams, who was in a position of trust in relationship to the young woman, contacted her on the street, as well as at home.

After being approached by police, the young woman agreed to co-operate. “Adams, twice the age of his young client, and fully aware of her strong desire to have her boyfriend released from jail, persuaded her to have sex with him,” wrote the judges.

In my view, the fact that I penned this story demonstrates my integrity as a journalist. At the time, few reporters in Canada had been more sympathetic to the plight of divorced fathers than I. When this group elected an unsavoury individual to its executive, I had two choices. I could have looked the other way since I was well aware that the bad publicity would damage the reputation of a cause to which I was personally sympathetic. Or I could do my job – which involves shining a light on stunningly bad judgment.

The article was written with care and received the close attention of an experienced libel lawyer prior to publication. We were confident in the accuracy of our facts, and that the story would withstand a legal challenge.

The complainant resides in Alberta and filed his lawsuit there. The National Post and I were based thousands of miles away in Toronto. Going to trial would have involved accommodating me and a senior National Post editor in a hotel in another city for weeks. When lawyers’ courtroom fees were factored in, the costs associated with going to court would have been enormous.

I worked for the National Post for three years and defended this lawsuit for an additional eight.

.

.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 781 other followers