Johnny Northside's fine overturned; blogger calls court decision a "complete and total victory"

Categories: Blogs/Web, Law
JohnnyNorthside_BillofRights_hed.jpg
"Johnny Northside" | Wikipedia
A screenshot of the "complete and total victory" post on "Johnny Northside" after news of the verdict. At right, the Bill of Rights, where you can juuust make out the wording of the First Amendment.
SEE ALSO:
- John Hoff fined $60k for blogging
- Best Local Blog 2011: The Adventures of Johnny Northside
- Jerry Moore has a controversial past (COVER)

This morning, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that local blogger John "Johnny Northside" Hoff is off the hook for $60,000 in damages to the subject of one of his posts. "Hoff's blog post is the kind of speech that the First Amendment is designed to protect," Judge Jill Flaskamp Halbrooks wrote in the opinion.

The reversal comes a year and a half after a Hennepin County jury found Hoff liable, a decision that ruffled feathers among free-speech defenders.

john hoff.jpg
Blogger John Hoff behind his computer.
In June 2009, Hoff wrote on his north Mpls-focused blog, "The Adventures of Johnny Northside," that Jerry Moore, then employed by the U to study mortgage foreclosures, had himself been involved with shady mortgages. The day after Hoff's post, Moore was fired.

Moore sued Hoff for defamation, and last March, the trial jury found that Hoff's post was true -- a conclusion that would ordinarily be enough to toss out a defamation suit involving a public figure like Moore. But, there were also questions about whether Hoff engaged with the U to argue for Moore's termination, and the jury reasoned that these actions, to whatever extent they occurred, violated Moore's employment contract. As such, their verdict was that "Johnny Northside" owed Moore $60,000 in damages.

As we wrote at the time, "Even though John Hoff exercised his First Amendment rights, and didn't defame Jerry Moore in the process, Moore walked away with a $60,000 settlement."

Today, the Appeals Court called hogwash. On the question of whether Hoff (in effect) lobbied the U to get Moore fired, Judge Halbrooks wrote, "evidence of interference by Hoff separate and distinct from his blog post... is insufficient."

The opinion goes on to call any outside communication "too intertwined with Hoff's constitutionally protected blog post" to distinguish between them. For the Appeals Court, the issue at hand here was Hoff's First Amendment rights, and the information that he reported was factual. Because of this, the opinion continues, "Regardless of the motivation of the messenger, if the information conveyed is true, it is not appropriate for liability to attach."

To further spotlight this case as a textbook free speech issue, Halbrooks broke it down into its parts. Hoff "was publishing information about a public figure that he believed was true (and that the jury determined was not false)," she wrote, "and that involved an issue of public concern."

Crowing over his victory on his blog, Hoff writes that today's verdict is a "complete and total victory," and a "vindication of this blog in the 'Blogosphere Trial of the Century:'"
We won. No remand back to lower court, no new trial, just complete and total victory. In fact, the opinion was PUBLISHED and so it will be in the books as something that can be cited as precedent in future situations that may arise when bloggers make truthful statements and, as a result, as one example, somebody who is involved in a mortgage fraud at 1564 Hillside Ave. N. loses his job at the University of Minnesota doing research involving mortgages.
The case still may work its way up one more rung in the legal ladder, to the state Supremes. But for now, the Appeals Court's verdict is, as MinnPost's David Brauer tweets, an "excellent decision for citizens, not just journos. (Since journo/blogger/writer distinction immaterial)."
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9 comments
antijns
antijns

A little more than a year after his case was reversed on appeal, I have learned that John Hoff has applied to take the Bar exam in Oklahoma and was verified by the Oklahoma Board of Bar Examiners. HOWEVER, getting approved to merely TAKE the bar exam means all applicants must pass a background check that includes proving to be of strong moral fitness and character. The feedback in less than a week after posting the information on my blog suggests that there are a lot of people who have encountered Hoff's attacks against them and are planning to submit their documentation to the Board of Examiners which demonstrate why Hoff should never be allowed to even take the bar exam. I did find it interesting to note that when an applicant is denied their request to take the test, they have the right to appeal the Boards decision and if they are denied again... They can appeal once again to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. The information I submit to the Board about Hoff will include a friendly "heads up" that they should begin preparing for the appeal that Hoff will almost certainly pursue.

http://misadventuresofjohnnynorthside.blogspot.com/2013/09/blogger-hoff-pursuing-license-to.html

T.J.
T.J.

What readers need to understand is that John Hoff is a mentally disturbed war veteran who refuses to get help. Free treatment is available from the VA, but he doesn't recognize that he is paranoid and delusional. Hoff  is currently serving in the Oklahoma National Guard. Please contact: Brigadier General Glen E. Moore 3501 Military Circle Oklahoma City, OK 73111 and ask that they refer Hoff to get the help he needs before he actually hurts someone.

ibnnnews1
ibnnnews1

Now maybe the antiquated, backward City Pages can cover the Black community.

Melvin
Melvin

swmnguy, the reason Hoff victimizes Peter Rickmyer is because he knows he cannot defend himself. Rickmyer has no access to the internet, and his futile attempts to defend himself against the likes of Hoff have backfired, getting him essentially banned from filing any pro se court actions. If he wants to sue Hoff now he'll need the help of a big shot attorney. When I win the lottery I'll give him the money. Until then, he'll just have to ignore #JohnnySlumlord.

Unfortunately with his win, Hoff will get even worse with his attack blogging until he finally messes with the wrong person and either gets sued or whacked. Either way, he's been warned by so many of his followers, and he just never listens to their advise or learns from his mistakes.

Derrick49
Derrick49

Congratulations to John Hoff on having his judgment reversed. I am certain he is relieved. The Minnesota Court of Appeals clearly had to balance constitutional protections against the claims of the Plaintiff.

But to know this case, you really have to understand what the jury heard. And that was that John Hoff was a sadistic predator that had a documented 10+ year history of using the internet, blogs, online forums and groups, and print media to harass intimidate, degrade, threaten, and victimize people he didn’t like or had a disagreement with.  John Hoff made a name for himself in his north Minneapolis community by writing a blog under the name “Johnny Northside”.  Early articles centered on absentee landlords who neglected their rental properties. Hoff tried to look like a hero by posting photos of him boarding up vacant houses until city officials told him to stop. He then went on to target any property owner with code violations, or that had “criminals” living at that address, posting photos of the property and mug shots of the residents. He would also “stake out” certain homes and photograph the people as they came and went.  Hoff used, and still uses the Internet to cyber stalk people by searching social media to learn where they live, work, and play then he makes their lives a living hell. He will send messages and emails to his victim’s friends and family spreading defamatory information. He will publish derogatory (and sometimes false) blog posts claiming to have obtained the information from “confidential” sources he refuses to name. And if Hoff doesn’t get satisfaction from attacking his victim, he will write offensive blog posts about his victim’s friends and family in an attempt to have those friends alienate his victim.

To hear or read about Hoff’s history of abuse makes you wonder why he hasn’t been arrested or sued previously.  The lengths that John Hoff takes to victimize people are absolutely astounding.  What is even more mind boggling is that Hoff firmly believes he has the right to harass and intimidate people because his blogging is free speech, protected by the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution.

What John Hoff did to Jerry Moore, the Plaintiff in this case, was accomplished in typical John Hoff fashion. He was not providing a “public service” (as he claimed during trial) in informing the University of Minnesota about some irregularities in Mr. Moore’s background, rather he was making a malicious attempt to make Moore’s life miserable by getting him fired from his new position at the University. And just to make sure officials at the University took the information seriously, he threatened to blackmail the UofM by informing them that if they didn’t fire Mr. Moore, Hoff would publish a series of negative articles about the University. Moore was fired with days.

The only reason this case was reversed was because Hoff was involved with a co-conspirator and defendant, Donald Allen (who settled prior to trial), and their actions were so closely entwined that they could not be separated.

The problem with this reversal by the Minnesota Court of Appeals is that now Hoff believes he has an unlimited license to harass people under protection of the 1st Amendment.

The very first thing he did after blogging about his “colossal win” was to send an intimidating email to his nemesis, Jim Watkins, who writes an “Anti-Johnny” blog, threatening to continue writing about his acquaintances:  http://misadventuresofjohnnynorthside.blogspot.com/2012/08/moore-v-hoff-minnesota-appeals-court.html

 

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

I have serious misgivings about John Hoff and the tactics he has used throughout his adult life.  His record is extensive, Google-able, and, I believe, legitimate cause for concern. 

 

However, that has nothing to do with this case.  This case was outrageous and ridiculous from the start.  No way Mr. Moore ever had any kind of claim against Mr. Hoff.  I'd say he may have had a plausible claim against the U of M, but the fact that he sued Hoff and not the "U" suggests his employment was at-will there, also.  The fact that Jill Clark pursued this case cost her my vote in the recent primary, though I was looking for an excuse to vote against Gildea.  I couldn't believe the court could find that what Hoff wrote about Moore was true, but that Hoff somehow owed Moore $60,000.  That seemed to me to be a clear case of the judicial system assessing Mr. Hoff a "Pain In The Ass" tax, which has to be unconstitutional.

 

Now, if Peter Rickmeyer ever gets his act together to sue Mr. Hoff for harassment, then Mr. Hoff had better get out his checkbook.  The fact that hasn't already happened is probably meaningful, as well.

mtpeterka
mtpeterka

@ZombieWill @citypages I miss the days of his column in the daily. Almost as good as some of those letters to the editor!! #takeoutthetrash

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