Back to Quack Off
Ex Ada County
Commish Judy Peavey-Derr threatens libel lawsuit against Deep Throat II
opinion – that is, a purely subjective judgment rather than an assertion of
fact – is not actionable under the law of libel.” –
Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law
Boise, ID – Whoa,
listen up, gather around, shut up, girl friends. Former Ada County
Commissioner Judy Peavey-Derr has taken issue with one of Free Market Duck’s
recent opinionated commentaries (See
Ada County screws taxpayers,
again...pays Cryptic Partners $1.4 million for $900,000 office space in
Eminent Domain settlement ).
Judy Peavey-Derr by her attorney, Allen Derr,
who as public knowledge will reflect is her husband, think that Ms. Derr was
defamed on two counts: (1) FM Duck opined that “everybody involved in the Ada
County Courthouse deal is a freaking crook,” and (2) FM Duck opined that Ms. Derr
was in a conflict of interest position when she chaired the Ada County
Commission’s 11-member Committee to Select Courthouse Developer Civic
Partners (then Wilmore Holdings, Inc.) while simultaneously receiving a
campaign donation from Wilmore Holdings, Inc.
You be the judge.
ex-commissioner Derr’s Demand For Retraction. Then, FM Duck responds.
Finally, we invite controversial politician Judy Peavey-Derr to publish “her
side” of the story in FM Duck’s Quack Off Commentary.
Read on, mes amies.
firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Wed, 20 Jun 200
FreeMarketDuck.com; Deep Throat II
of June 13, 2007 you posted an article on your BLOG in which you accused
Judy, along with others, of being a “freaking crook”.
insinuate illegality in respect to an alleged campaign contribution.
This is by
all definitions libel per se and thus actionable.
you consider yourself a newspaper or a semblance thereof so that Idaho Code
Section 6-712 would apply.
under the provisions of said section 6-712, Idaho Code, is made that you
retract said libelous statements within three (3) weeks of service of this
demand in substantially as conspicuous a manner as your June 13, 2007 BLOG.
to retract said libelous statements within the time period may result in an
action against you for exemplary (punitive) as well as general and actual
P. O. Box
Following is Free
Market Duck’s response:
Allen Derr, Attorney-at-Law
200 North 3rd Street, Ste B
PO Box 1006
Boise, Idaho 83701-1006
RE: Your DEMAND FOR
RETRACTION of June 20, 2007
Dear Mr. Derr:
In response to your “DEMAND FOR
RETRACTION,” on June 20, 2007, you presume wrong in your assumption that Web
www.FreeMarketDuck.com is a “newspaper” simply reporting objective or
factual news rather than Opinion Commentaries. As such, FM Duck Commentary
does not fall under Idaho Code Section 6-712. However, even if it did, it’s
a moot point since:
opinion – that is, a purely subjective judgment rather than an assertion of
fact – is not actionable under the law of libel.” –
Kirsch’s Handbook of Publishing Law
As our online masthead clearly states on
every Web page, we are “Idaho’s Journal of Local & National
Commentary means our
“opinion,” not objective news
reporting per se. As our “About Us” on
every page of our Web Site also clearly states, our
“commentary” is from a subjective
free market point of view. As such, we are independent Libertarians
expressing comments and opinions on social-political-economic news from a
subjective free market point of view. As a First Amendment lawyer, you also
about a public official – especially a very controversial politician – or
some matter of public concern is strongly protected from a claim of
defamation under the First Amendment. Thus, for example, author Gore Vidal
was unsuccessful in a libel suit against William F. Buckley after
conservative Buckley dismissed Vidal as “perverted” and Myra Breckenridge as
“a pornographic potboiler done for money.”
Your client, Ms. Judy Peavey-Derr, is
not only a long-time politician in Boise, holding the position of Ada County
Commissioner for many terms, she is a very controversial politician. She,
in fact, just lost her last Primary election for Ada County Commissioner
due, in part, to her unpopular participation in illegal “closed meeting(s),”
which resulted in a lawsuit that was recently upheld against her by the
Idaho Supreme Court. The only question remanded back to a lower court was
the size of the fine for the participants holding “closed meetings” and the
circumstances under which an attorney need be present. Nevertheless, the
main affirmation by the Idaho Supreme Court was that Ms. Derr did indeed
participate in an illegal closed meeting.
It is in Ms. Derr’s capacity as a public
official, as a controversial politician dealing with hundreds of millions of
taxpayer dollars in questionable expenditures, from the initial Courthouse
land purchase to the University Place fiasco to the current Eminent Domain
“deal” with Civic Partners while Civic is involved in an ongoing lawsuit for
the same Courthouse Corridor property, that we criticized “…everybody
involved in the Ada County Courthouse deal” as “a freaking crook.” We stand
by our opinion and point out that politician Derr as Ada County Commissioner
and Chairlady of the Committee to Select the Courthouse Developer has been
involved in the middle of the Courthouse debacle since the beginning.
Note that we did not specifically single
out and state that Ms. Derr personally was a “freaking crook” in our
commentary. We simply grouped all the politicians and public figures,
including developer Civic Partners, into our opinion of how the entire
Courthouse and University Place fiasco has been handled by those involved.
Your assumption that Ms. Derr exists in such a high profile in this group
does not warrant your DEMAND, and was a complete surprise to us since we
consider her limited political role as quite minor in the larger scheme of
things. Your response appears to us to be – or not to be, that is the
question – more like a Shakespearean confession of “Methinks thou dost too
much protesteth” rather than anything else. Our response is: if the shoe
fits, wear it.
Once again, our commentary included all
politicians and public figures who participated in what is commonly known as
the University Place fiasco, from the initial, questionable lease-purchase
methodology of the 14 acres for the Courthouse Corridor to the $136 million
University Place fiasco, to the questionable Eminent Domain issue, to Civic
Partners’ current lawsuit v. the U of I Foundation and the U.S. Attorney’s
ongoing federal criminal investigation out of Portland, Oregon.
It is not just our opinion that Ms. Derr,
as Ada County Commissioner and Chairlady of the Committee to Select the
Courthouse Corridor Developer, participated in what Judge Hurlbutt described
in Case # CV OC 0405740D, UIF v. Civic Partners, as a
“complicated real estate deal” built on a “house
of cards to accommodate things like tax revenues (Ada County tax revenues)
that are not going to be paid.” And further stated:
Well, the Foundation's position in this transaction or series of
transactions, at best, seems to have been bumbling, at least from the
standpoint of an outsider looking in. What the Foundation, University,
CCDC, Civic Partners, various attorneys, and public officials were thinking
and trying to accomplish will forever remain a mystery. Because in some
respects, a number of people aren't talking or at least it's not part of
this record. To divine what was trying to be accomplished is beyond the
power of this court.
If parking spaces were material to their consideration in entering into the
RA (Reconciliation Agreement) -- and I'm -- I'm not sure it was anything
other than to make it look like they were getting something for their
payments in lieu of taxes in order to assuage somebody's sensibilities, but
I'm not sure it was really material. Because
structure of this deal really had little to do with parking spaces; it had
everything to do with supporting the whole line of financing that was put in
place to make this project work
(note: emphasis added, and the line of financing was deemed criminally
illegal, garnering a conviction for former U of I VP of Finance, Jerry
And, as Judge Hurlbutt’s case continues,
(UIF Attny): On the same day they do an (Reconciliation) agreement they
call agreement in connection with the assignment and assumption of the
Parcel 1 sublease. They do it the same day.
Now, when you say "they," "they" is you.
NICHOLS: "They" is Civic Partners and the Foundation and the CCDC.
NICHOLS: These are the three parties.
So the "they" includes you. It's a "we."
NICHOLS: Yes. Yes.
So if this is crazy, we all were crazy in putting this mess together.
The point is that even Judge Hurlbutt
has recognized and stated that the deals comprising Boise’s Watergate from
beginning to end were a “mess” and “we all were crazy in putting this mess
together.” Who exactly Judge Hurlbutt is referring to in his definition of
“we” is unsettling but from the above court transcripts it is obvious he is
referring to everybody, including “the county,” which means Ada County
Commissioner Judy Peavey-Derr, as participants in all the “deals” comprising
This entire financial mess is covered in
the book entitled, Boise’s Watergate:
University Place & All The Governor’s Men as well as in an
independent, detailed, 604-page Prince Report investigation that has cost
taxpayers over $1 million to date. Numerous actions by various parties
mentioned in the Prince Report were deemed probably illegal. Similar
transactions to the Ada County Courthouse land and building lease-purchase
deals were found unconstitutional recently by the Idaho Supreme Court in the
Boise Airport Extension case. The civil trial cited above and – to the best
of our knowledge -- a federal criminal investigation by US Attorney Allan
Garten out of the Portland, Oregon FBI District Office are still ongoing.
We do not know since the Ada County Prosecutor’s office and the FBI District
Office in Portland, Oregon, have not responded to numerous inquiries.
Sequestering a secret grand jury, secret as required by law, would explain
their silence but we do not know for sure.
To claim that your client, Ms. Derr, as
one of the Ada County politicians involved in various Ada County Courthouse
deal(s), should somehow be exempt from First Amendment commentary and
opinion is ludicrous. Nor could any commentary from Free Market Duck, from
a strictly quantitative readership point of view, possibly defame your
client. FM Duck’s readership is about 100 readers per week. Ms. Derr,
however, may have defamed herself through all of her public political
actions and comments by publishing her own Reader’s Views in the Idaho
Statesman newspaper, the daily circulation of which averages up to 230,000
readers and far exceeds FM Duck’s readership. This technical fact is a moot
point itself and only serves to indicate the frivolity of Ms. Derr’s
DEMAND. In the same way that one cannot libel the dead, the deader than a
doorknob level of FM Duck readership would have a difficult time libeling
anybody. First Amendment rights, lack of intentional malice, and other
legal precedents, however, supersede any logistical points concerning levels
As a public official, and as Chairwoman
of the Committee to Select the Developer for the Courthouse Corridor, which
turned into a multi-million dollar financial boondoggle, Ms. Derr had
multiple roles in this sordid financial mess that eventually affected the
University of Idaho, the U of I Foundation, and the taxpayers of Ada
County. We have commented extensively on this.
As our commentary that you referenced
points out, one individual has already pled guilty to state criminal charges
and two were sanctioned by the Idaho State Bar Association for their
participation in Boise’s Watergate, which includes various Courthouse
“deals” we referenced in our commentary. A $7 million lawsuit by the U of I
Foundation v. Civic Partners is still going on today, Case # CV OC 0405740,
in the very same Courthouse in which Ms. Derr, acting as Ada County
Commissioner in another legal action, participated in the granting of $1.4
million in an Eminent Domain lawsuit to subleasee Civic Partners for
property valued at $900,000 by Ada County.
The truth is, your client has
participated as a public official in many questionable Courthouse deals from
beginning to end and our First Amendment rights allow us to use plain
English to refer to all the participants as “freaking crooks.” According to
Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the
word “crook” means “swindler.” Taxation is not a voluntary action and
financial “messes” referenced by Judge Hurlbutt above that cost taxpayers
hundreds of millions in questionable additional taxation can be likened to a
swindle. And the word “freaking” is currently a slang adjective or adverb
used as an “intensifier” rather than a strict definition. It is used to
emphasize, not define. For example, He is a freaking surfer addict, or She
freaking devours tons of chocolate, or Congress is a bunch of freaking
Your client, for all the above reasons,
was not defamed by the words “freaking crooks.”
In regards to ex-Commissioner Derr’s
receipt of a campaign contribution from Civic Partners’ precursor
corporation, Wilmore Holdings, Inc. with Steve Semingson as CEO for both
corporations, our source is
www.followthemoney.org, a national independent organization that tracks
political contributions. You can log onto the Internet and click on this
hyperlink today, and quickly discover that Ms. Derr, running for state
Senate in 1996, received a $250 campaign donation from Wilmore Holdings,
Inc., the very same California development corporation which was chosen
immediately after or during Ms. Derr’s chairing of the Committee to select
this developer for the Courthouse and University Place property. While she
was not a commissioner at this time, she was acting on behalf of the Ada
County Commissioners to choose the sole rights developer for the 14 acres
known as the Courthouse Corridor. We believe this is a conflict of
interest, and Ms. Derr should have either refused the donation or not
participated in the Ada County Courthouse development selection process. It
is in this capacity – as well as in the aforementioned Eminent Domain
granting of an extra $500,000 to Civic Partners – and all the intricate
financial deals in Boise’s Watergate, including the initial Courthouse deal
to the University Place fiasco, that we opined that “…everybody in the Ada
County Courthouse deal is a freaking crook.”
As you are well aware, public officials,
especially highly controversial politicians who are questionably spending
taxpayer money, are fair game in opinion pieces precisely because the public
has a right to know what is going on and where their tax money is going. We
take great exception to politicians and their lawyers who attempt to
frighten, attack, or censor free market commentators for exercising their
First Amendment rights to freedom of speech. The fact that Ms. Derr just
lost an Idaho Supreme Court case RE illegal “Closed Meetings” which revealed
a blatant attempt to curtail the public’s right to know and First Amendment
right to comment through participatory government at open meetings, is
indicative of the controversial politics that your client has participated
in and supports our right to publish our opinion about her actions.
In summary, we have not libeled Ms. Derr.
First, she is an extremely controversial politician spending taxpayer money
– and we certainly do not comment upon Ms. Derr’s private life, which is
none of our business. Second, opinions about politicians and their
political actions are protected by the First Amendment and not actionable.
We have a First Amendment right to express our subjective opinion of
controversial politicians, which your client certainly is, or was. Third,
there was no malicious intent on our part to defame Ms. Derr. She has
perhaps already defamed herself in numerous Reader’s Views written by
herself in the Idaho Statesman newspaper or by her own political actions and
reaped those rewards by losing an election and a recent Supreme Court
lawsuit. Fourth, your client placed herself in a conflict of interest
position by chairing a Committee that selected the very same corporation
that gave her a political campaign contribution, according to
www.FollowTheMoney.org , an independent national campaign tracking
For your information, we follow Kirsch’s
Handbook of Publishing Law and refer that publication to you for
clarification of our position both at the state and federal levels.
Attorney Jonathan Kirsch is an attorney specializing in copyright,
trademark, and publishing law. He is a partner in the firm of Kirsch &
Mitchell in Los Angeles and a contributing writer for the Los Angeles Times
With all due respect – and no
acknowledgement of guilt to your assertions of libel – we do, however, offer
your client, Ms. Derr, the opportunity to publish her side of the story at
We are especially interested in:
Ms. Derr’s comments on her conflict of interest position RE her
receipt of a “donation” or “monetary contribution” from Wilmore Holdings,
Inc., while she was chairing the selection committee that chose this same
corporation, Wilmore Holdings, to develop the Ada County Courthouse, which
initiated the $136 million University Place fiasco,
Ms. Derr’s participation in the questionable lease-purchase
methodology to go into multi-year debt to obtain the Courthouse land and pay
for the new Ada County Courthouse building, two separate issues, with 30
annual renewable leases for the latter,
Ms. Derr’s participation in overpaying Civic Partners $500,000, $1.4
million vs. the $900,000 appraised value for the Ada County Courthouse
office space mentioned in the Eminent Domain case, and finally,
Ms. Derr’s knowledge about who, legally, holds fee title to the Ada
County Courthouse building, not the land under the building, and to whom
does Ada County pay annual rent for the building?
If no comments are received
from Ms. Derr within three weeks from the date of this letter, we will
assume she is not interested in publishing her side of the story.
We stand by our commentary.
Ms. Derr (1) was in a conflict of interest position when she received a
political campaign contribution from a company her committee chose to
develop the Courthouse Corridor, and (2) participated with all the other
“freaking crooks” in many of the Ada County Courthouse “deal(s)” from
beginning to now. That is our opinion after looking at all the evidence and
under the First Amendment we have the right to comment on politicians and
their actions to our readers. NY Times v. Sullivan is a landmark case you
may want to refer to. A case closer to home is the recent Idaho Supreme
Court Case of the Spokesman Review v. GOP politician Trent Clark, in which
the Court held that “Clark is a public figure under the test articulated in
the 1964 U.S. Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan. Thus, it said,
he could recover damages in a defamation suit if he could provide ‘clear and
convincing’ evidence that the newspaper acted with ‘actual malice’ – that
is, the knowledge of falsity or a reckless disregard for the truth.”
Since Mr. Clark was a public figure and no malice was intended, the Court
held for the Spokesman Review.
FM Duck has not acted with
“actual malice,” or “knowledge of falsity,” or “a reckless disregard for the
truth.” We are not a newspaper; we are a commentary (opinion) journal and
stand by our opinion.
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