Enterprise files answer in defamation lawsuit

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Former extension agent filed civil suit

By Stephen Lega

The Lebanon Enterprise has filed a response in a defamation lawsuit filed by former Marion County Agriculture Extension Agent Ed Lanham.

Lanham filed a civil defamation lawsuit March 20 against state livestock inspector David Thompson, The Lebanon Enterprise and Donald Brockman, a Campbellsville veterinarian who examined Lanham's horses after a March 21, 2008, search warrant was served.

Attorney R. Keith Bond previously filed a reply on Brockman's behalf. Attorney Ashley Pack filed the reply on behalf of the Enterprise May 11.

According to the complaint, the defendants published "defamatory statements ... causing damage to [Lanham's] person, reputation and employment." Lanham's complaint also specifies the defamatory statements were published on or about March 21, March 26 and Dec. 10, 2008.

News stories about the search and examination of Lanham's horses noted that Brockman evaluated 32 horses on Lanham's property. Brockman was quoted as saying that a majority of the horses had a body condition score of three or below. Horses normally score between five and seven, according to Brockman.

The story also reported that Lanham considered the allegations "hogwash" and he stated that he did not have a single unhealthy animal.

According to Pack's answer, the Enterprise is seeking a dismissal of the complaint and that it be awarded its costs including attorney fees.

Pack argued in her answer that Lanham was a public figure or a limited purpose public figure, that the articles published by the Enterprise contained a fair and accurate summary of public records and as such are privileged under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution.

Pack also argued that some or all of the statements complained of by Lanham are opinion and fair comment on matters of public concern and interest, and therefore are also privileged under the First Amendment.

She continued to note that Lanham did not request a "correction" or "retraction" of any of the statements or articles he alleges are defamatory.

A criminal case is pending against Lanham in Marion District Court. Lanham is facing a charge of second-degree cruelty to animals.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for June 1 in the district court case. A trial has been scheduled for June 19.