Sarah Palin loses bid to disqualify judge from NY Times defamation trial

FILE PHOTO: Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska governor, exits the United States Courthouse in New York
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By Luc Cohen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Tuesday lost her bid to have the judge who oversaw her unsuccessful defamation lawsuit against the New York Times disqualify himself and order a new trial.

The former Alaska governor said in March that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff set too high a bar for her to prove the Times acted maliciously, and she faulted Rakoff's unusual decision to dismiss Palin's case while jurors were deliberating.

The jury ultimately sided with the Times.

In a written decision on Tuesday, Rakoff called Palin's motion for him to recuse himself "frivolous." He said she had not identified any legal errors

"The meritless accusations of impropriety in Palin's motion cannot substitute for what her trial presentation lacked: proof of actual malice," Rakoff wrote.

A 1964 U.S. Supreme Court decision requires public figures alleging defamation to show that news media acted with actual malice, meaning they knowingly published false information or had reckless disregard for the truth. The decision provides substantial protection for journalists.

A lawyer for Palin declined to comment. Palin, who is now running to represent Alaska in the U.S. House of Representatives, is appealing the verdict.

Palin, 58, sued the Times and its editorial page editor at the time, James Bennet, over a June 14, 2017, Times editorial that addressed gun control and lamented the rise of inflammatory political rhetoric.

It followed a shooting at a congressional baseball practice in Virginia, where Republican U.S. Representative Steve Scalise was among the wounded.

The editorial incorrectly linked Palin's rhetoric to a 2011 Arizona mass shooting where Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded. The piece was corrected the next morning.

(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)