In this week’s update with EB, he discusses the defamation lawsuit filed by Buster Murdaugh, a new Louisiana legislation and new Law Library terms.


Hey there, EB here, giving our weekly update, hello Premium Members True Sunlight listeners Cup of Justice listeners, very excited to talk with you this week. So much has happened. We’re going to start off with the Buster Murdaugh lawsuit that was the shot heard around the world. We’re going to talk a little bit about the 10 Commandments, new legislation that took place this week, I think it was in Louisiana. But, you know, I had a rough day today. I had a long mediation and I remembered what somebody said to me a couple years ago, when I went to vote with Renee. I asked the guy how he was doing and you know, we always say, “Hey, how are you doing?” And you know, just somebody’s gonna say, “Oh, I’m doing fine.” but he actually took the time he wanted to tell me how he was doing. And so I stopped and I listened to him. And he said, “I’m just getting over cancer. And I’ve not had a good day today.” But he said, “You know what? Every day is not good. But there’s good in every day.” and as I was driving home tonight, I remembered what he said. And you know what, I came home to a gorgeous wife, my daughter’s here, my dogs, and so there really is good in every day. 

The shot that was heard around the world, which we all read about and heard about this week is Buster Murdaugh finally filed the lawsuit, that in the legal community, we knew that he was shopping around for the past couple of years, I had actually talked to a couple of lawyers who were questioned, or actually interviewed to be the lawyer who would bring this suit. And obviously Buster finally hired Shaun Kent, a man who’s a really good lawyer. But Buster decided to file a defamation lawsuit against some pretty powerful companies. Netflix, he filed it against Warner Brothers, Blackfin and some other companies. And he also named one individual, Michael DeWitt. And we’ll talk about what was the strategy of naming Michael DeWitt, who is a journalist from Hampton county writes the editor for The Hampton County Gannett And he also writes for USA Today in the Greenville News. And so Buster finally decided that he wanted to file a lawsuit over the fact that there were inferences and almost direct statements that he was involved in Stephen Smith’s death. Some people would say murder, other people would just say it could have been a vehicular homicide, other people would say it was more than that. Certainly the state of South Carolina has called it a homicide and he has been associated with that death. 

We have never said that. If you look at the South Carolina highway patrol investigative file that was released in 2021, Buster’s name appears multiple times and Randy Murdaugh appears multiple times. So Buster has taken the extraordinary step of suing. And I’ve always been a proponent that just because you can file a lawsuit doesn’t mean you should because sometimes lawsuits have unintended consequences. And a civil lawsuit is different than a criminal lawsuit. In a criminal law school suit, there’s not much discovery and the state produces documents to the defendant based on a rule five discovery request. And they produce exculpatory documents, which are documents that could prove the innocence of the defendant. And they produce inculpatory documents, which are documents that could be shown to the guilt of the defendant. You can do subpoenas, but you would have to get court permission to do that. But you can’t go take a deposition where you get a court reporter and you go sit in a room and you ask questions, civil litigation is completely different. civil litigation, the discovery process, by and large, or is driven by the defendants who were sued. And in this case, these defendants are in the business of making news, creating news, creating documentaries, not only part one, part two, but they want part three, or four, part five, and they can do it. And Buster has sued. Very powerful, very well heeled monetarily finance companies, who are going to defend this vigorously, a defamation case is very, very difficult to win. It’s a very high standard. Now, arguably, Buster may be a public figure, I don’t believe he is. I don’t believe he voluntarily injected himself into the public discourse. If he was, then you would have to show actual malice in the false statements that were made that he was involved in Stephen’s murder, and that he’s gay and had a sexual relationship with him. So there’s going to be an argument whether he’d say he’s a limited public figure. But I think that Buster is going to win out and so it’s going to be a lesser standard. But when you sue, for defamation, and in this case, now damages are presumed because we’re he’s being accused, allegedly of participating in murder, and that is a crime. So damages are presumed. 

But he’s put his reputation at risk, at issue, his reputation that was carved a little bit by him having been dismissed from USC Law School. We do know that he gave his driver’s license to his younger brother Paul, who was underage who bought alcohol the night that Mallory Beach was killed. So what is going to happen is these defendants have broad based discovery rights. They’re going to take depositions of Buster’s friends, they’re going to take depositions of classmates, there’s no finite number of the number of depositions you’re going to take. So they’re going to hire some very powerful law firms who are going to subpoena all Buster’s text messages, his emails, his phone records, text messages between him and his father, text messages between him and Paul, that may reference the name of Stephen Smith, they’re going to want to know, have you ever been alone with Stephen Smith? Have you ever had lunch with Stephen Smith? Has Stephen Smith ever been at your house? What was the reason? Who invited him? All of these questions, nothing, nothing. Nothing is beyond the pale. And they will take all these depositions around, Buster, before they take Buster’s deposition and when Buster’s deposition is taken, there’s nine different lawyers who are going to be able to ask questions of Buster, and about his reputation and how it’s been harmed. Or do you have the ability to get a job wherever you apply? Has anybody turned you down? Because they said that you are a murderer. All these things are relevant. Sandy Smith now could be the beneficiary of people who are willing to speak, people who are going to have to go under oath and answer questions about Murdaugh’s relationship, if any, with Stephen Smith, why did you show up at the accident scene? Alex? I wouldn’t be surprised if they take Alex Murdaughs deposition in connection with this. And people have to speak in a deposition. The only way you have the ability not to speak is If you invoke your fifth amendment right against self incrimination which would be an automatic red flag. Remember SLED is investigating Stephen’s death right now. But people don’t have an obligation to talk, the only obligation you have is if they put you in a Grand Jury setting and they give you immunity, then you’re forced to talk. But some people just say I choose not to talk. But in a deposition setting, you may have to talk and somebody may say something, and it’s a talisman thread, where you can pull that thread, and you keep pulling it and pulling it, and it will yield more information. I do not begrudge Buster that he did bring this lawsuit but I think that, you know, be careful what you ask for you may get it. Buster, I think, should have gone on with his life. He was smeared because of the actions of a despicable father. Okay. Buster didn’t inject himself into the public limelight. He didn’t ask to lose a mother and his only sibling brother. He’s a victim, no question about it. He had nothing to do with Alex’s murder charges. However, he carries the badge of that last name. And why do I say that? Well, if we were in a restaurant, and I’m eating with Renee and my daughter, Sydney, and I hear a table for four for Smith, we’re not going to turn our heads. But if I hear a table for four for Murdaugh, everybody’s going to turn their head. Just like when I got out of the hospital room, the day after my knee replacement and we’re walking down the hall and the room right next to me had a Murdaugh name on it. It carries with it a connotation of misery of, of bad behavior, of indulging behavior of murder of intrigue and stealing money from people. And I just think that these production companies, Netflix and Blackfin and Warner Brothers, they’re gonna welcome this lawsuit, because I think it’s going to create more information, more information that’s going to be used in additional documentaries. And you can’t stop that fire. Once you light that fuse, that fuse stays lit. So we shall see where it goes. But I think we’re excited about it because and I say we are meaning Luna Shark Productions, because I don’t think they’re going to keep this information quiet. The defendants are not, I don’t think they’re going to agree to a protective order. Where this information is kept from the public. This public has a right to know. And I think it’s going to yield some information that could explain what happened to Stephen Smith.

And let me make something clear, Sandy Smith, she doesn’t stay awake at night or wake up in the morning and say somebody better be charged with murder today on my son. She wants peace. She wants answers. She wants to know what happened to her son and Stephen could rest in peace. So we just want answers. And I think this lawsuit at the end of the day is going to give answers.

Now it was interesting that they named Michael DeWitt, who I really like, some people like him, some people don’t. He’s always been a perfect gentleman to me. I like his southern humor. Reminds me a little bit of Louis Sachar the way he writes and we read Southern Gothic books and trade books back and forth. But they named him because he’s a South Carolina resident. And Buster is a South Carolina resident. And so it’s Buster versus Michael DeWitt. Two South Carolina residents, you can’t get the federal court. Federal Court is a court of limited jurisdiction. The jurisdiction is if they’re citizens of different states that are suing each other, somebody from South Carolina suing all these production companies, which are probably California Delaware companies, then the case has what’s known as diversity citizenship, and it should be brought in federal court. But the fact that they named Michael DeWitt, now you have a South Carolina citizen on both sides of the V, it can stay in state court. And I think that defendants are going to test that I think they’re going to try to remove the case to federal court and argue that Michael DeWitt was named as a sham defendant, and therefore, to bust diversity jurisdiction because they named his production companies, but we shall see. But I don’t think it’s a given just because it’s filed in Hampton County, that the Murdaughs have that swag that they used to have. That if they went before a Hampton County jury, the jury is going to lap it up and award them tons of money. I don’t think that that is the case today, I think there’s a solid 40 to 50% of the people in Hampton County that absolutely love the Murdaughs. But I think there’s another 40 to 50% that are mad at what the Murdaughs did to the reputation of Hampton County in that Hampton county is now known as where the murders took place. So we shall see how it works out. A judgment against one company is not going to be a collectible judgment against all nine companies. You have to prove each company committed defamation, it’s not joint and several liability. where let’s say you have a landlord and an owner of a building, and somebody gets killed in there and you sue them both and you can collect from one as opposed to both in joint several liability. If you have multiple defendants, you can collect the entire verdict from one one defendant. But in this case, they’re gonna have to prove defamation against all nine. And I think Shaun Ken is going to be worked to death. Over the next two, three years. I don’t see this case settling, I see it being a long drawn out situation. 

The next thing that happened is the 10 Commandments. I think it was either the Louisiana legislature said that in every school, all the way from kindergarten to college, the 10 Commandments have to be prominently displayed in school in every classroom. Now I am a big proponent of the 10 Commandments, because I’m Jewish. And it’s the Old Testament, it’s Moses carrying tablets down from Mount Sinai, But I am a big proponent of secular education. And the Supreme Court has already spoken on this. And I think that this is going to be reversed. It’s going to get all the way up to the Supreme Court. And we’re gonna see what this Supreme Court does, whether they follow what we talked about last week, precedent, star a deceases. If it’s a resolved area law, there’s no reason to disrupt it. Roe v. Wade was a resolved area of law well settled for 50 years, but in the DODDS case, they reversed it. So these school boards, legislatures want to test to bring religion into school. Nothing wrong with the 10 Commandments. But what about the Buddhist students? What about the students that don’t believe in Christianity or Judeo Christian beliefs? I think it is unfair to them. And I think we should focus on teaching kids to read, how about that. Let’s teach them how to read better, let’s teach them how to do math better. Let’s teach them how to speak better. And let’s teach them how to write better. So that’s one of the things that happened today. That really irked me. 

So we also have a question today where somebody asked Eric, can an individual volunteer information and how is it filed meaning in a case? Let’s say in Buster’s case? Can somebody volunteer information to the court? The answer is probably not. Can they volunteer information to the attorneys who are representing parties? Absolutely. There’s a thing called the amicus curiae. And that is, you’ll find them in certain cases, let’s say it’s a a abortion case, for instance, or a First Amendment case, let’s say the AMA has an interesting, American Medical Association, they’ll file what’s known as amicus curiae, a brief which means friend of the court in Latin, where they will submit a brief on their position on what the issue is with the court. So to get that information before the court, if you’re not a party, you have to belong to an organization. 

So with that said, now we’re going to put on our legal hats, we’re going to move to the library. So the first term and it’s relevant because we’re talking about Buster’s defamation suit is irreparable damages. Now I’ve talked to you before, there’s four types of per se damages, which means per se means presumed in defamation, I accuse you of a crime. I attack your occupation, I accuse you of having a loathsome disease like venereal disease, or I say that you’re unchaste that you’ve given up, you know what. Those four things, I don’t have to prove damages. If I am not a public figure, if damages are presumed. Irreparable damages, or damages that can never, ever, almost be repaired by money. That’s why injunctions are granted. Money cannot cure everything. If somebody’s going to publish something that says, I killed a priest, and, you know, we know that a lie travels halfway around the world before the truth laces up their shoes, that I want to go get an injunction because I’m going to argue that by letting that first amendment published, right, go into play, I will suffer irreparable damages, because I’m never going to be able to touch everybody that heard the story, that airplane killed a priest, and people are going to believe that and carry that going forward. So that is irreparable damage in Buster’s saying by saying I’m involved in Stephen Smith’s murder, if I wasn’t, that is repairable. So that is one of the legal terms that we have talked about. 

The second one is summary judgment. Summary Judgment is where the court before a case will go to trial, makes a decision, and have the plaintiffs gather enough evidence to take the case to trial. So let’s say I sue for breach of contract and negligence. The defendants are going to say, through the discovery process. Remember, when a lawsuit is filed, somebody files a motion to dismiss. They’re really never granted because all that means is did the plaintiff plead the facts and the causes of action under South Carolina law? And if I did, or that person did, the court is going to say the case goes forward through discovery. Well, when discovery ends before you go to trial, the parties and a plaintiff can file a motion for summary judgment. A defendant can file a motion for summary judgment, you could file a motion proposal Initial summary judgment on liability only. And what you’re essentially saying is that the court went through this discovery process, and they didn’t garner enough evidence to show that there are material facts in dispute, so that a case could go to a jury. And federal courts granted summary judgment all the time. They’re known as the courts of summary judgment. State Court judges are granted less, because they don’t want to be reversed on appeal. The quickest way for you to get a reversal is if you give somebody summary judgment, after they have litigated the case for two years after they spent a fortune of money on depositions, and all that, so that that is the legal terms that we’re going to deal with today. These are the legal terms and Sammy, anything more my one producer, Sammy, Berlin, anything more Sammy? 

We’re good. 

We’re good? Okay, everybody, I want you to have a great weekend and my daughter’s home. I’m excited. We have a couple more days before she starts her third year residency. So with that EB out.

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