WYATT EMMERICH: Speech is free, unless you libel

I write this as context for the dispute between Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler and Madison County’s engineer Rudy Warnock.

Butler has long been a critic of Warnock. She is upset Warnock’s firm has been given $23 million in no-bid contracts over the last decade. She created a new website designed to fight “corruption” in Madison County.

Warnock has threatened to sue Butler for slander and hired Jackson attorney Dorsey Carson to pursue the matter. Carson is scouring social media for any libelous posts from the mayor.

Meanwhile, Y’all Politics posted a press release attributed to Rudy Warnock that makes a variety of salacious accusations against the mayor. This opens Warnock up for a libel countersuit from the mayor.

The mayor, being in politics for decades, obviously knows a bit about libel. She was careful not to accuse Warnock directly of “corruption.” Instead, she talks about corruption in Madison County. By keeping her accusations sufficiently broad and vague, she may confer some protection.