Sarah Palin’s defamation lawsuit against The New York Times Company was reinstated by a federal appellate court on Tuesday, with a three-judge panel ruling that a District Court judge was wrong to dismiss it two years ago.
The case involves an editorial The New York Times published in June 2017. Ms. Palin, the former vice presidential candidate, argued in her lawsuit that the editorial had incorrectly linked her to a 2011 mass shooting in which Gabrielle Giffords, then a congresswoman from Arizona, was severely wounded. Ms. Palin’s political action committee had previously circulated a map of electoral districts, some with cross hairs on them, and she said The Times had connected the map to the shooting despite knowing that tie to be false.
The Times later issued a correction, saying there was no link between that political rhetoric and the shooting.
In August, Judge Jed S. Rakoff of Federal District Court in Manhattan dismissed the suit after an unusual evidentiary hearing in which James Bennet, the editor of the Times editorial page, testified. He said he had not intended to blame Ms. Palin for the shooting of Ms. Giffords, but rather to make a broader statement about the country’s heated political environment. Mr. Bennet inserted the statements that Ms. Palin said were defamatory during the editing process.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that it was not for a judge to determine whether Mr. Bennet had acted out of “actual malice,” meaning that he either knew that what he wrote was false or that he acted with “reckless disregard.” The judges said that in light of Mr. Bennet’s testimony, Ms. Palin’s case remained “plausible.”
“This is — and has always been — a case about media accountability,” Libby Locke and Ken Turkel, lawyers for Ms. Palin, said in a statement on Tuesday. “We are pleased with the court’s decision, and we look forward to starting discovery and ultimately proceeding to trial.”
Eileen Murphy, a spokeswoman for The Times, said, “We are disappointed in the decision and intend to continue to defend the action vigorously.”