Arizona Edition

Star wins appeal over reporting on former judge who fired gunshot in confrontation

Arizona Daily Star

A state appeals court ruled that the Arizona Daily Star and two of its reporters did not defame a Tucson attorney.

The ruling is part of a lawsuit filed by Starr in the Court of Appeals following Superior Court Judge Cynthia T. Kuhn’s refusal to dismiss the lawsuit against Starr and the journalist.

A state appeals court ruled that the Arizona Daily Star did not defame a Tucson attorney in 2021 for reporting on a confrontation between a then-Pima County magistrate and Stoker.

Arizona Daily Star

The case includes an article and column about a confrontation between a Tucson judge and a stalker. In February 2021, then-Pima County magistrate Adam Watters was confronted with Faye Chin, the man who stalked Watters and threatened to kill Chin, according to police and court documents. fired a gun into the ground.

In the Hata stalking trial, a jury heard evidence that Watters’ family had suffered after several incidents of garbage related to Hata being left on the lawn of their home. At about the same time, the judge’s truck tire was slashed twice.

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Chin was sentenced to a year and a half in state prison for stalking a judge, but the Pinal County Attorney’s Office declined to press charges against Watters. Later, at an Arizona Judiciary Conduct Commission hearing, Mr. Watters agreed to a resolution barring him from serving further as a judicial officer after his term expires at the end of 2022.

The defamation suit was filed by Watters’ daughter, local attorney Caitlin Watters, who was armed with a shotgun and in hiding during the clash with Qin.

The lawsuit alleges that a March 2021 news story by star reporter Carol Ann Alaimo falsely implied that the Caitlin Watters resigned as Pima County prosecutor in connection with the case. The lawsuit also alleges that a subsequent opinion column by Star columnist Tim Stellar contained false and misleading statements.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals was prepared by Judge Michael F. Kelley, with the consent of two other members who heard the case, Chief Judge Carl C. Epic and Judge Christopher J. O’Neill.

In Kelly’s ruling, the Court of Appeal did not find the statements in the two articles to constitute defamation.

However, “even if we reach the opposite conclusion as to the defamatory nature of the statement in question, we conclude that the defendant judge erred in denying the motion for summary judgment on the basis of actual lack of bad faith. deaf,” Mr. Kelly wrote. “Actual bad faith” is the legal standard for defamation actions that apply to plaintiffs who are considered public figures. Such plaintiffs must prove that the defamatory statements were made “knowingly or recklessly disregarding whether they were false.”

The ruling, filed Thursday afternoon, remanded the case back to Kuhn’s court with “instructions to grant summary judgment” in Starr’s favor.

Get your morning rundown of today’s local news and read the full story here.

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