On June 13, the New York Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Gottwald v. Sebert that Gottwald (aka, Dr. Luke) is a limited purpose public figure in the defamation case brought by Dr. Luke against singer and songwriter Kesha Rose Sebert (aka, Kesha). In 2014, Dr. Luke sued Kesha for defamation after she accused him of sexually assaulting her. What followed was years of litigation around the issue of whether Dr. Luke is considered a public figure. In March 2023, the News/Media Alliance joined an amicus brief with 28 other media organizations, filed by RCFP in the New York Court of Appeals, arguing that Dr. Luke is a limited purpose public figure. The court agreed, holding that “Dr. Luke is a limited public figure who must prove by clear and convincing evidence that [Kesha] acted with actual malice.” The Alliance recognizes the importance of cases that deal with the scope of who is considered a public figure, as these rulings can have important implications for journalists.
The court also ruled on the retroactivity of amendments made to New York’s anti-SLAPP statute, which extend the protections to a broader class of individuals. The court held that while the amendments applied retroactively to the pending case, the claims for costs, attorney’s fees and damages only applied as of the effective date of the amendments, rather than the commencement date of the suit. Read more.
Charlotte McBirney is Senior Counsel and Director, Public Policy for the News/Media Alliance.