A letter to a whole bunch of really good friends.
The nightmare is over. My lawyer says I can talk about it now.
Some of you know about it already. Most don’t. Here’s the short version.
About a year and a half ago there was a knock on my front door. A kind of unruly-looking fellow, probably about 30 years old, dressed in faded jeans and a plaid flannel shirt, was waiting at the door. He handed me a piece of paper and said “Sarah asked me to deliver this.”
I asked “Sarah who?’
He replied with a last name I didn’t recognize, turned on his heel and departed.
I closed the door and looked down at the paper. Turns out he was a process server and had served me with what appeared to be a document telling me I was being sued for defamation of character for something I had written on my blog. Being sued by a former Billings County Commissioner. He claimed I had said something about him that wasn’t true. Well, I don’t generally do that.
I had been writing about the scheme by Billings County to build a bridge over the Little Missouri State Scenic River. Right here on this blog, I had been writing it. But I was pretty sure I hadn’t defamed anyone’s character while I was doing that, especially that of a former Billings County Commissioner, who probably thought maybe he was now a “former” because of what I had written. He had lost an election the year before.
That was the beginning of the nightmare.
So I hired a lawyer, Chris Edison, to defend me. Chris did good. There was a hearing. The case was dismissed. There was an appeal to the North Dakota Supreme Court. They held a hearing. Earlier this month they dismissed it too. It’s over.
But lawyers cost money. My lawyer is a friend, and was happy to help. He discounted the bill substantially. But still . . .
My friend Clay saw that I was fretting a bit over paying the bill, and he put an impassioned plea for some help on the GoFundMe website. It worked. The bills got paid. I am deeply grateful to Clay, my friend of more than 50 years.
But I am even more grateful for a whole bunch of people who donated more than $15,000 in just a week’s time to get the bill paid. I have many good friends. I’m still in awe of my good fortune.
Unfortunately, we took the GoFundMe page down from the website after we had enough money, without making a list of the friends who donated. I’m guessing most of the people who contributed to my legal fund read this column or are my friends on Facebook.
So, while I hate to be so impersonal, this is the only way I can think of to reach most of you who helped me, and say “Thank you.” From the bottom of my heart.
P.S. The Billings County Commission meets Tuesday, April 4, at 9 a.m. Here’s a look at their agenda. They’re not wasting any time moving forward with their bridge scheme. Look at the 9:05 agenda item. I’m going to be there.
5 thoughts on “Thank You”
Hi, Jim! I am so sorry I missed the chance to help you out with the legal bills you incurred just for reporting on the activities of the Billing County Commission. I so admire Lillian’s and your efforts to protect our western heritage in the Badlands and the great job you do of sharing important information. Congratulations on winning the lawsuit but I wish the court would have required the unsuccessful litigant to pay your legal fees. Anyway, keep up the good fight! You have lots of friends and fans from all over this country.
All best, Janet Daley Jury
Glad this is all behind you, Jim. Thank YOU for working harder for the real people of North Dakota than the Executive and Legislative branches of our state.
I find the “reasonably predictable” litigation agenda item (for which they claim confidentiality) rather funny … especially because you will be in the room, Jim, and they’ll first have to kick out out of the meeting to talk about you and BCA and a lot of people all over the country who think this bridge is a very bad idea. Have fun! Looking forward to your next column!!
I live in Dunn County, Wisconsin, where Lee Enterprises owns the Dunn County News. It’s a ghost newspaper, which means that there is no local staff that produces the paper, it’s put together about 100 miles away, full of press releases and no local news. Basically, it’s a place marker on Lee Enterprises’ stock holdings.
Anyway, a few dozen of us here in the Other Dunn County are trying to reinvent journalism outside of newspapers and television. We’ve been at it since September 2022. A subcommittee is trying to establish a newshub for the Internet that will list all local websites.
So as a former journalist who has appeared in a courtroom, I was cautioning them about the possibility of getting sued. Your name came up. I sent them this column.
Thank you for practicing good journalism even when you’re retired. You may be getting mentioned in a classroom or two.