The Nevada Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments over whether Sen. Ben Kieckhefer’s lawsuit charging a campaign ad defamed his reputation.
The television ad charged Kieckhefer, a Republican who represents south Reno and Carson City, “endorsed and supported Harry Reid in 2010.”
Kieckhefer sued charging Gary Schmidt, a GOP challenger, had irreparably damaged his political reputation.
Washoe District Judge Jerry Polaha granted Kieckhefer the right to proceed with his defamation lawsuit. But Schmidt appealed to the high court arguing a story in the Las Vegas Sun contains “a strong inference” Kieckhefer supported returning then-Sen. Bill Raggio as Majority Leader in part because he endorsed Reid over Sharron Angle in their contentious 2010 U.S. Senate race.
Schmidt lawyer Charles Kozak conceded there was no “clear and convincing evidence” of that but the article can be read that way so Schmidt’s claims don’t fall within the definition of defamation because there’s no proof of malice on his client’s part.
Justice Mark Gibbons questioned whether the article talking about Raggio’s endorsement of Reid over Angle made that leap.
“I read the article that Senator Kieckhefer supported Raggio for Majority Leader.”
Chief Justice Jim Hardesty pointed out there was no evidence Kieckhefer supported Reid’s campaign.
“Did your client identify any information, any information whatsoever that Senator Kieckhefer supported Senator Reid?”
Kozak said beyond the newspaper article, the answer was no.
Kieckhefer’s lawyer Adam Hosmer-Henner said Schmidt ran the TV ad without knowing whether it was true or false, telling Kieckhefer’s people he had serious doubts about the information but would pull the advertisement if they could show Kieckhefer had endorsed or backed Angle instead of Reid.
Hosmer-Henner said that’s reckless and supports allowing the defamation lawsuit to proceed.
The high court took the case under submission.