The lawsuit filed recently by Republican candidate John Gallman against his opponent Luke Rankin and a host of others who supported Rankin’s reelection raises important questions about protected political speech and other activities during a campaign.
The lawsuit alleges libel/slander, invasion of privacy (private medical records) and conspiracy among the various groups of defendants to destroy Gallman’s reputation.
Political speech has always been given the broadest of interpretations by the courts under First Amendment protections. However, making a statement you know to be false but publishing or broadcasting it anyway is termed “reckless disregard for the truth”, which the lawsuit alleges.
Gallman, Rankin and Carter Smith were the three candidates vying for the Republican nomination for S.C. Senate District 33 in the June 9, 2020 primary election. Gallman and Rankin faced off in a primary runoff to determine the nomination on June 23, 2020.
According to the lawsuit complaint, a 531-page dossier on Gallman was compiled containing documents from Gallman’s divorce proceedings and notes from a forensic interview conducted by the Children’s Recovery Center in Horry County. The complaint alleges the dossier was compiled by the Rankin campaign and distributed to media organizations throughout the state on June 2, 2020.
The forensic interview was conducted with Gallman’s 10-year-old daughter. The records of the interview are statutorily protected and confidential pursuant to S.C. Code § 19-11-95, S.C. Code § 44-22-100, and S.C. Code § 62-11-310.