Of all of the authorized venues in all of the world, Patrick Reed’s defamation go well with towards Golf Channel and Brandel Chamblee has landed within the chambers of Alfred H. Bennett, a federal choose in Texas.
Whereas Reed has little purpose to know a lot about Bennett, Bennett is unquestionably conscious of Reed.
The choose is a golf fan and an avid golfer. At Golf Membership of Houston, the place he belongs, he has recorded 15 rounds up to now six months, and 5 extra at different programs, based on his GHIN profile. His handicap index is 7.6, and you’ll wager he’s not sandbagging, mates and colleagues say.
Choose Bennett isn’t one for fudging numbers.
“He’s an absolute stickler for the foundations,” stated Randy Wilson, a justice within the 14th Courtroom of Appeals who has performed quite a few rounds with Bennett. “He counts each stroke and putts out all the things.”
So reverent is the choose towards the sport’s laws that he carries a replica of the Guidelines of Golf in his bag. He’s not afraid to interrupt it out within the title of honest choices.
“There have many occasions once we’ve gone deep into the weeds over the nuances of the foundations,” Wilson stated.
On one event, Wilson stated, a debate arose over the right drop after a ball crossed right into a creek. Was the hazard line outlined by a straight line between crimson stakes, or did it comply with the curvature of the creek? Bennett argued for the latter, and he was proper.
In one other occasion, Wilson stated, a shot strayed far left of a fairway, touchdown on a grassy patch between the cart path and a fence, in such a place that taking a right-handed stance was inconceivable. Bennett insisted that the participant might flip round and take a left-handed stance, and, as a result of his ft would now be on the cart path, he could be entitled to aid. Not everybody within the choose’s group was shopping for it. However as soon as once more, the rule guide bore him out.
Bennett is 57. Final fall, he competed within the Better Houston Senior Metropolis Beginner, at Gus Wortham Park Golf Course, the place he completed forty seventh, with rounds of 86 and 87. Although he’s not a bomber, he largely retains it straight, based on Ken Clever, one other choose within the 14th Courtroom of Appeals who has performed a number of rounds with Bennett.
He’s an absolute stickler for the foundations. He counts each stroke and putts out all the things.”
That trait carries over from the course to the courtroom.
“He’s the consummate skilled,” Clever stated. “He performs it proper down the center together with his rulings.”
A 2021 Houston Bar Affiliation ballot affirms that view, with almost 300 respondents awarding Bennett excessive marks for his preparedness and impartiality.
A choose recognized for his stability will now overview a case involving one among golf’s extra polarizing figures. The defamation go well with filed on Reed’s behalf seeks damages in extra of $750 million, alleging that the Golf Channel and Chamblee have been “actively focusing on Mr. Reed since he was 23 years outdated to destroy his fame, create hate, and a hostile work setting.”
The criticism quotes remarks made by Chamblee which have been important of Reed’s involvement with Saudi-backed LIV Golf, and cites a torrent of insults launched at Reed by spectators, together with “Now on the primary tee, the excavator!” and “Why don’t you dig a grave and bury your self in it!” Each jabs are obvious references to an incident on the 2019 Hero World Problem, the place cameras captured Reed dislodging sand from behind his ball in a waste space. Chamblee was amongst those that decried Reed’s conduct, saying on Golf Channel that “to defend what Patrick Reed did is defending dishonest.”
Reed’s legal professional is Larry Klayman, who, like his consumer, has a colourful fame. It stems from his historical past of submitting headline-making fits towards high-profile figures starting from Invoice and Hillary Clinton to the comedian prankster Sacha Baron Cohen. A former colleague as soon as described Klayman because the type of one who would “sue you for criticizing his tie.”
Within the golf press and on social media, the submitting Klayman submitted has been mocked for its preponderance of typos. Amongst different glitches, it incorrectly makes use of “it’s” as an alternative of “its” greater than a dozen occasions, and, in a point out of Tiger Woods, renders a possessive as “Wooden’s.”
Other than amusing the Twittersphere, such sloppiness may also irritate a choose. However it has no bearing on the deserves of the case.
What issues is the legislation. And in that regard, the problem for the plaintiff is even steeper than the challenges of correct punctuation. For public figures to show defamation, they have to present that they’ve been the sufferer of “precise malice” — that the individual they’re accusing has knowingly made false statements about them or acted with a “reckless disregard for the reality.”
It’s a stout authorized customary, and with good purpose, says Meredith J. Duncan, professor of legislation on the College of Houston Regulation Heart.
“On this nation, we get pleasure from a First Modification proper to freedom of speech, and defamation legislation errs on the aspect of defending that proper,” Duncan says. “There’s a excessive burden of proof, particularly for public figures.”
Duncan declined to take a position on the doubtless end result of the go well with, and Klayman didn’t reply to a request for remark. However, Duncan famous, the overwhelming majority of civil instances, “round 90 to 95 %,” by no means even make it to courtroom. They’re both dismissed or settled.
Attorneys for Chamblee and Golf Channel have a proper to file a movement for dismissal. They’ve but to take action. However they nearly absolutely will, and when that occurs, Bennett might put a fast finish to the drama and toss the criticism. Failing that, the case would transfer to the invention part, with either side presenting proof in assist of its claims. At that time, the defendants might file a request for a abstract judgment, asking the choose to dismiss the go well with primarily based on all that he has seen.
Among the many central questions Bennett will probably be requested to weigh is whether or not Reed’s aspect has proven that Chamblee knew Reed wasn’t a cheater however known as him one anyway. There may be additionally the query of whether or not calling somebody a cheater — or casting them as a pawn of an oppressive regime — is a matter of opinion, which isn’t actionable as defamation.
These are lengthy asks.
To borrow from golf lingo, Reed’s criticism is a far cry from a gimme, and it now comes earlier than a choose who isn’t inclined to present them.