The President with no love of the media directs Congress to pass a law, stripping libel of its first amendment protections and presuming it to be character assassination. The law punishes publishers who have published not only false facts, but also false opinions. The law drops the requirement that the plaintiff has to prove malice. The law sets a minimum for statutory damages of $100,000.00 per libel by a multistate wide or internet publisher.
Furthermore, the loser must pay the winner’s legal fees. The clergy (except those barred for national security reasons) and public officials are immune from being sued. Congress, which this President’s party controls, quickly passes the bill over vigorous protest by the remaining opposition.
A major internet publisher had previously published an opinion critical of the President’s statements after the Charlottesville demonstrations. As soon as the President signs the bill into law, he sues the publisher, hiring high-priced lawyers. Because of the legal fees provision, the lawyers aren’t worried about getting stiffed by the President.
The case is tried before a jury, which finds for the publisher. However, the judge, who was appointed by the President, sets aside the jury verdict as not following the law and directs entry of a $20 million judgment against the publisher, with $2 million in legal fees.
The defendants take their case to the circuit court of appeals and draw a panel of three judges, two of whom were appointed by the prior president. The appeals court reverses the trial judge, reinstating the jury verdict and declaring the libel law unconstitutional as violating the first amendment.
The President appeals to the Supreme Court. The Court announces its decision, by a vote of 6 to 3, that the new law is constitutional. It also finds that the law is meant to occupy the entire field of libel, so a state can’t make a law that conflicts with federal libel law.
The President still has several similar cases ready to be filed against the same publisher. This effectively will put the publisher out of business. The publisher settles by turning over its stock to the President. The business side of the publisher keeps its jobs. The editorial staff is replaced. In exchange for releases to the individuals, they are allowed to keep their money, less a few million dollars pledged to one of the President’s re-election Super-PACs .
One last item : the settlement was not confidential. The President stages several rallies at which he proclaims winning the fake-news publishers over to his side. The publishers were unable to refute the President’s false statements, at the peril of subjecting themselves to new libel claims.
That’s how totalitarianism works!