Justices demand retraction from Las Vegas newspaper
- Three Nevada Supreme Court justices claim an opinion column about a controversial court decision libeled them.
July 29, 2003 — The Las Vegas Review-Journal received a letter Friday from a lawyer for three Nevada Supreme Court justices who say they were libeled in an opinion column in the newspaper. The justices asked for a retraction of statements they say accuse them of corruption.
Las Vegas attorney Dominic Gentile, who has represented news organizations in other lawsuits, wrote the letter on behalf of Justices Bob Rose, Miriam Shearing and Deborah Agosti, according to a Review-Journal report.
The column, written by Vin Suprynowicz, ran July 20. It discussed a controversial decision by the Nevada Supreme Court to suspend a provision of the state constitution requiring at least two-thirds of the state legislature to approve a tax increase. The decision, aimed at terminating a budget standstill, allowed lawmakers to pass a tax hike by majority vote.
Suprynowicz wrote in his column that a retired Nevada judge told him that Gov. Kenny Guinn, who was a party to the budget lawsuit, had improperly secured a favorable result from the justices.
Suprynowicz quoted his source as saying: “The fix is in. Guinn went to Rose and Shearing on the Supreme Court some time ago and got their agreement that they’ll impose the tax hikes. Agosti is wavering, but it’ll probably be 6-to-1.”
The Supreme Court’s decision, issued July 10, was 6-to-1.
Suprynowitz wrote in his column: “And so the thin veneer that had still duped many of us into believing we had a government of law, and that our political leaders were not bought-and-paid-for shills of the gaming industry and the big government unions, has now been stripped aside.”
Gentile’s letter said the column libeled the justices.
The newspaper’s report said Justice Rose denies ever speaking with Guinn about the case. Rose said no one from the newspaper tried to contact him about the column, according to the report.
The justice also said the Review-Journal should disclose the identity of Suprynowicz’s source, according to the report.
Thomas Mitchell, editor of the newspaper, said the Review-Journal would not retract the statements.
“This was an opinion column by Vin Suprynowicz,” he told the newspaper. “It was a fair characterization of what he heard and his conclusions on what transpired.”
Attorneys for the newspaper said they expect the justices to file a lawsuit.
© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press