Court dismisses former state superintendent's defamation lawsuit against former lawmaker

A judge has dismissed former state Superintendent Cindy Hill’s defamation lawsuit against Tim Stubson, a onetime Casper state representative, and called the comments at the center of the case “the exact type of statements the First Amendment was intending to protect.”

The suit, filed in February 2016 as Stubson was challenging Liz Cheney for a U.S. House seat, alleged that Stubson defamed Hill on his official Facebook page in response to an unnamed Fremont County reporter’s question. The then-Wyoming representative was asked about a 2013 law that stripped Hill of much of her power within the Department of Education, which the state Supreme Court eventually ruled was unconstitutional.

In a later-deleted Facebook post, Stubson allegedly wrote that during Hill’s time as state superintendent, she “was not following the law, was out of control, had committed illegal acts that the Wyoming Legislature had not disclosed to the public, and that the Legislature had to stop her,” according to Hill’s lawsuit.

Hill’s suit claimed that the Facebook comments were the latest in a continuing pattern of malicious conduct. Also at issue were statements Stubson made during a debate about his support for the law.

In his ruling last week dismissing the suit, District Court Judge Thomas Campbell wrote that Stubson’s statements were protected under the First Amendment and were not actionable under defamation laws.

“Although speech can anger or hurt others, freedom of speech is deemed too important to the vigor and openness of public discourse in a free society to be silenced or discouraged by the threat of or the filing of a lawsuit for defamation,” Campbell said.

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