Hey, we’re talking about Hulk Hogan here, so I figure a 20-year-old reference like “Talk to the Hand” is entirely appropriate.
A judge in Florida has ordered Gawker to take down a sex tape it acquired showing wrestler Hulk Hogan putting the “Legdrop of Doom” into his friend’s ex-wife, along with Gawker’s accompanying commentary and all the comments made to the post.
Gawker has taken down the video.
But in lieu of taking down the post and the comments, Gawker penned a stirring defense of the First Amendment that will also serve as Exhibit 1 in the eventual contempt hearing….
Elie explained the basics of this case already, but by way of recap, Hulk Hogan’s best friend (Todd Clem aka “Bubba the Love Sponge,” not to be confused with “Bubby the Love Sponge,” the world’s most awkward Jewish grandmother) apparently didn’t mind sharing his then-wife, Heather Cole, and somehow got this on tape. Ultimately, Gawker got a hold of the tape and posted it. Hulk went all “nWo-era Hulk” and sued in federal court. After being laughed out of there, he took his talents to
South Beach St. Petersburg.
Enter Judge Pamela A.M. Campbell. Judge Campbell, a Jeb Bush appointee, is best known for representing the parents of Terry Schiavo in the right-wing cause celebre of pretending that Schiavo was just really deadpan instead of persistently vegetative. As the Judge put it:
“I see brain injured people like Terri who are now walking and talking and able to participate joyfully in their life. I’m much more aware of the rights of the disabled.”
Actually, no, you don’t — at least not people injured “like Terri.” But I’m sure she sees other brain injured people walking around all the time. They call it Florida.
The point is that Pam Campbell’s reward for her efforts to turn a tragically injured person into a political prop was a judgeship, and she’s turned her finely honed legal mind to misinterpreting basic Constitutional jurisprudence.
For example, in this colloquy with Gawker’s attorney:
CAMPBELL: Let me ask you this. I’m sorry for interrupting, but directly on that point. This is the part that was irritating to me in the lawyers’ pleading, where they are describing comments that are made allegedly during this tape. So is that the speech that you are trying to protect? The speech that was made during the scope of this videotape between these two consenting adults having sex in a private setting with allegedly no notice to the plaintiff? I’m not sure what speech you’re trying to protect.
THOMAS: Your Honor, I’m trying to protect multiple parts of speech. The first part is the printed version of the story. This is not a sex tape by itself, Your Honor. There is a printed version…and a sex tape that goes with it. It’s not a sex tape alone. Yes, Your Honor, I’m trying to protect that speech. I’m also trying to protect the speech that’s there….
As Gawker put it, “she seemed to fail to understand the basic First Amendment principle that ‘speech’ includes forms of communication beyond word-sounds coming out of people’s mouths.”
Judge Campbell ordered Gawker to take the whole thing down. Gawker responded:
A lawful order from a circuit court judge is a serious thing. While we vehemently disagree with Campbell’s order with respect to the video itself, we have chosen to take it down pending our appeal.
But the portion of the order compelling us to remove the entirety of Daulerio’s post—his words, his speech—is grossly unconstitutional. We won’t take it down.
Now this is starting to resemble a wrestling match. The supposedly unbiased referee just hit Gawker over the head with a chair while it wasn’t looking and Gawker’s just launched a stare down.
While Gawker is substantively “right,” Judge Campbell explicitly denied Gawker’s request to stay the injunction pending appeal.
Gawker might be buying itself a hefty fine here. Even after Gawker is vindicated, Judge Campbell has a colorable argument that refusing to comply with a court order, even a wrong one, in such a brazen and disrespectful fashion constitutes contempt. She shouldn’t hold Gawker in contempt after she gets reversed, but she probably could.
A Judge Told Us to Take Down Our Hulk Hogan Sex Tape Post. We Won’t. [Gawker]