Libel law leads two lives. Most famously, there is the life of presidential candidates and the New York Times; of celebrities and the National Enquirer; of exposes in Rolling Stone. The rules here seem settled, with the “actual malice” standard and public/private figure distinctions. President Trump seems to be questioning whether they were settled right -- were they?

But there is also the life created by the Internet: of Yelp reviews, of gripe blogs, of consumer complaints on RipOffReport and sites such as and People are finding it easier than ever to widely publicize their grievances, whether accurate or not. Here the questions focus more on remedies than on “actual malice” and similar substantive standards.

The traditional compensatory, presumed, and punitive damages remedies are often seen as largely pointless. Criminal libel survives, and is in some measure being revived; should it be? Injunctions against libel, long thought by many to be quintessential unconstitutional prior restraints, are routine; is that good? As to either life of libel law, how can the law punish defamatory falsehoods without unduly deterring accurate accusations?

We will discuss all this, and more, Friday, November 17, from 3 to 4:30 pm, at our 2017 National Lawyers Convention. The panel -- which will take place in the State Room of the Mayflower Hotel -- will feature distinguished First Amendment lawyers and professors from across the country:

  • Mr. Paul Alan Levy, Public Citizen Litigation Group
  • Ms. Libby Locke, Clare Locke LLC
  • Dean Rodney A. Smolla, Widener University Delaware School of Law
  • Prof. Eugene Volokh, UCLA School of Law
  • Moderator: Judge Jerry E. Smith, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Online registration ends Monday, November 13. Click here to register. Visit this site to consult the convention schedule.

To watch the convention live stream, click on this page beginning November 16.