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January 14, 2008

Judge To NBC: You Can't Control Your Own Content

A solution in search of a problem found a judge in search of some understanding of the concept of private property and free speech. Both converged in Las Vegas through the efforts of Dennis Kucinich to force his way into the NBC Democratic debate. A Las Vegas judge ruled in favor of Kucinich:

A Las Vegas judge has ruled that democratic presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich must be included in the Tuesday night presidential debate in Las Vegas.

Kucinich filed a lawsuit against NBC. He said he was initially invited to be in the nationally televised debate but the offer was later rescinded. Base on the earlier invitation, Judge Charles Thompson ruled in Kucinich's favor saying if he isn't included, he will issue an injunction stopping the debate.

This won't hold up, but it may not be worth it for NBC to appeal. It will cost them less in legal fees and headaches to simply re-invite Kucinich rather than stand their ground and insist on controlling their own content. Given the short period of time, they may not get any relief through an appellate court anyway.

However, the judgement is absurd on its face. In the first place, the state courts wouldn't have jurisdiction for a national broadcast. Constitutionally, this case belonged in federal court, which has jurisdiction on any interstate commerce complaints. Kucinich filed his tort in state court hoping to find a sympathetic, activist judge who didn't know much about the law, and apparently succeeded.

More offensively, the courts don't have any business telling NBC or any other network that they have to include certain individuals in a debate. It may be a poor decision to exclude certain candidates, but the broadcast is the property of the network and it's their decision to make. The court apparently has no respect for private property in that sense.

The fact that Kucinich filed this lawsuit shows his unsuitability for office. He cynically filed the claim in the wrong court and pushed for government control over the speech, property, and assembly rights of NBC. He couldn't have demonstrated the danger he represents any better. (via the Political Machine)

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald dissects my argument, and points out that "tort" is incorrect (among other points in his argument). I respect Glenn, but I'll wait for the appeal. In the meantime, be sure to read his response.

UPDATE II: Looks like the Nevada Supreme Court agrees with me, and not Glenn Greenwald. I'll accept apologies from the people who posted personal insults.


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» Dennis Kucinich Sues NBC Due To Nevada Debate Exclusion from The Moderate Voice
Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich has busy lawyers these days: it was just announced that he’s suing NBC over being excluded from tomorrow’s debate of the top-three Democratic Presidential nomination race candidates. Last week he demanded a r... [Read More]

» Judge Interferes With Debate from Rhymes With Right
Face it -- Dennis Kucinich is not a bona fide candidate for President. He has no significant support, has raised no significant money, and has no significant chance of winning his party's nomination. MSNBC was right to exclude him from... [Read More]

» Judge Orders Kucinich Included in Nevada Debate from Outside The Beltway | OTB
Dennis Kucinich sued to force NBC to include him in its Nevada debates and Senior Clark County District Court Judge Charles Thompson has issued an injunction ordering that he be included. NBC promises to appeal. On the merits, I don’t see how Ku... [Read More]

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