Isabella County, Michigan, judge Paul Chamberlain decided Thursday that a Twitter account satirizing Mount Pleasant Attorney Todd Levitt is protected by the First Amendment.
The Twitter account was created by the defendant, Zachary Felton, a student at Central Michigan University.
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So, here are some choice paragraphs from the decision in Levitt v. Felton:
“On June 2, 2014, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant, alleging false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, tortious interference with business relations, defamation per se, business defamation, and unfair competition. Plaintiffs claims arise out of defendant’s creation of a Twitter account entitled ‘Todd Levitt 2.0.’
“Plaintiff characterizes this Twitter account as an impersonation of him that has caused him damage. Defendant’s Twitter handle was @levittlawyer, which is very similar to plaintiffs Twitter handle of @levittlaw. Defendant used the plaintiffs actual picture as his ‘avatar.’ He also used the plaintiffs logo as his background on the Twitter page.
“Defendant argues that this Twitter account was a parody designed to make light of the plaintiffs marketing strategy, which included referring to himself as a ‘bad ass’ attorney. On plaintiff’s own Twitter account, he referred to himself as such and posted several Tweets encouraging the use of alcohol and marijuana.
“Defendant claims that the Tweets on the Todd Levitt 2.0 Twitter account, like the one that stated, “Partying=Defense Clients[.] Defense Clients=Income[.] If I endorse partying, will my income grow? It’s like a Ponzi scheme for lawyers!” were meant to satirize and make fun of plaintiff’s Tweets in a humorous way.
“Defendant’s account contained a disclaimer which stated, ‘A badass parody of our favorite lawyer most likely seen on Main Street.’ Defendant also posted three Tweets referring to the account as a parody and satire….”
And, finally, as was to be expected in the United States of America, where free speech is the real bad ass:
“This court grants defendant’s motion for summary disposition, finding that defendant’s Twitter account constitutes a parody protected by the First Amendment….”
And, just in case:
“The Supreme Court has held that certain statements are protected, even when provable as false, when they cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating actual facts about the plaintiff. Such statements, read in context, are not capable of a defamatory interpretation.”
God save the union!