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United States District Court Grants Summary Judgment in Internet Libel Case

The United States District Court granted a Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment in a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 suit, claiming violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. This action arose out of Thomas Mink’s publication of an internet based newsletter, The Howling Pig. The pictured editor-in-chief was identified as “Mr. Junius Puke,” with an altered picture of Junius Peake, a University of Colorado professor. He filed a libel complaint with police that resulted in a search warrant issued through Susan Knox, a deputy district attorney for the 19th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

Mink filed his civil rights complaint, asserting the warrant lacked probable cause and violated his Fourth Amendment right against illegal search and seizure. As Ms. Knox was responsible for reviewing and approving the warrant, the complaint was against her.

Knox initially succeeded in having Mink’s claim for damages dismissed by the district court, claiming absolute prosecutorial immunity. On appeal, the 10th Circuit held that Knox was not entitled to such immunity, and it remanded the case for consideration of Knox’s claim for qualified immunity. On remand, the district court granted Knox’s motion to dismiss based on qualified immunity. The 10th Circuit once again remanded as Mink had a plausible claim that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated.

On remand, the district court determined that because “no reasonable person would believe that the statements made in the editorials were said by Professor Peake in the guise of Junius Puke…,” It granted Mink’s motion for summary judgment and denied Knox’s motion. See: Mink v. Knox, Case No: 04-CV-00023 (U.S.D.C. Dist. Colorado, 2011).

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Related legal case

Mink v. Knox