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In an action for defamation, plaintiffs face an uphill battle when they meet the legal definition of a public figure. Under our legal system, the First Amendment creates a high bar for such individuals, who are considered to have voluntarily placed themselves in the public spotlight. In such cases, plaintiffs typically must prove actual malice or a reckless disregard for the truth.

In the case referenced in this post, a California judge ruled that, under this analysis, clergy are public figures. As the author notes, these and similar cases are good news for the burgeoning group of church survivor websites, such as this.

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* Note: An appeals court later held that the trial court misconstrued the public figure doctrine as it applied to this case.