The Democratic National Committee's lawsuit against WikiLeaks, Donald Trump's presidential campaign, the Russian Federation, and a slew of other individuals and organizations must show that WikiLeaks aided and abetted an illegal seizure of DNC and John Podesta emails to warrant monetary damages or the removal of the information, Kirtley said in a Thursday interview with Fault Lines on Radio Sputnik. Kirtley is the Silha Professor of Media Ethics and Law at the University of Minnesota's School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
But if the DNC cannot demonstrate its case then the lawsuit might amount to a violation of the US Constitution's First Amendment, she said.
"Under US Supreme Court precedent, if WikiLeaks legally obtained this information, then the attempt to sue them — and certainly the attempt to get an injunction to stop them from publishing the information — would violate the First Amendment," Kirtley noted.
There is a "caveat," though, she continued. She explained that "If the case is able to show that WikiLeaks aided and abetted, or participated in, or asked that the DNC emails be hacked, then, they did not obtain the information legally. Under those circumstances, it is possible that a lawsuit — either for damages or to stop them from publishing — might be supported."
"It's not ever really happened before. The Supreme Court takes a dim view of prior restraints on the press. But there is that question about whether WikiLeaks aided and abetted the hack" of DNC servers, the professor noted.
The wide-ranging civil lawsuit seeks millions of dollars from plaintiffs. Moscow has consistently denied any involvement in the "DNC hack," while Trump states there was "no collusion."
Many analysts see the suit as a political stunt to generate support for Democrats in 2018 midterm elections. The head of the DNC acknowledged that the midterms motivated the timing of the lawsuit after it was filed.
DNC Chairman Tom Perez defended the timing of the lawsuit on MSNBC with Chris Hayes last Saturday, saying, "I'm worried about the 2018 elections… Our democracy is on fire. We've got to preserve our democracy. We've got to preserve full and fair elections. And that's a big part of what this is about."
"This seems to me to be a desperate move on the Democrats' part," Dan Kovalik, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, told Radio Sputnik Loud & Clear last week. "There's been no evidence of collusion that the FBI has found — even after these many, many months of investigation. So, I see nothing here of substance in these allegations," he said.