Case Number: 11950-22
Court: Erie County Court of Common Pleas
Clients: Erie Reader, Jim Wertz
Answer to Complaint Filed: Oct. 21, 2022
Background: On July 14, 2022, The Erie Reader published an opinion piece written by Erie County Democratic Party Chairman Jim Wertz, who also is a contributing editor to the newspaper, criticizing efforts by Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) and state Sen. Dan Laughlin to challenge the 2020 election results.
Kelly’s campaign demanded a retraction. However, on behalf of the newspaper, Paula Knudsen Burke, RCFP’s Local Legal Initiative attorney in Pennsylvania, responded in a July 25 letter to the campaign that The Erie Reader would not comply with the congressman’s “baseless demand” to remove an op-ed from its website. Nor would it issue an apology to Kelly or its readers.
A month later, Laughlin filed a defamation lawsuit against Wertz and The Erie Reader, alleging that they “published sensationalized, baseless, and untrue accusations regarding Senator Laughlin’s role in the events surrounding the 2020 General Election and the January 6 events at the United States Capitol.”
Wertz and The Erie Reader are represented in this matter by Burke and attorneys from the law firm Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr LLP.
2022-10-21: Answer to complaint