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Suits filed against Tribal Council members



By ERIN ZYSETT

The Itemizer-Observer

GRAND RONDE -- Two libel lawsuits have been filed against two separate Grand Ronde Tribal Council members by two separate people, for two separate incidents.

The cases raise interesting questions about libel and the internet, as both were the direct result of e-mail and web site postings.

Karen Plunges has filed a libel suit against Tribal Councilor Chris Mercier, alleging that Mercier defamed her in an e-mail "meeting recap."

Mercier said via his lawyer that sections of the e-mail Plunges refers to in her suit were taken out of context and when viewed in terms of the whole document in no way defamed her directly.

In the second lawsuit, Loretta Knight has accuse Councilor Angie Blackwell of defaming her on a tribal web board. Blackwell denies that the comments she made on the site qualify as libelous.

In order to prove libel, a plaintiff must prove that his or her reputation in the community was irrevocably harmed by whatever was written. For this reason, libel cases are usually difficult to prove.

Tribal Council meetings are closed to non-tribal members. Mercier's e-mail does seem to hint at a certain level of political maneuvering going on behind closed doors.

Though the odds are against libel suits being found for the plaintiffs, the cases are not insignificant by any means -- they ask for hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. And already they have affected tribal community harmony.



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