Las Vegas Sun

June 24, 2024

Jon Ralston:

Time for the high court to end character assassination

It sickens me that I am still writing about this.

But I am more hopeful than ever that a resolution is nigh in one of the worst abuses of the legal system I have seen by a client and team of character assassins, who have used tactics to try to smear a journalist that haven’t been in vogue since the days of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

It now appears that the state Supreme Court is poised to render a decision on an appeal made by Jeff Guinn, the son of the late governor, who wants to rummage around in a journalist’s personal life because she had the temerity to report stories he didn’t like. For months, Guinn and his thuggish legal team, led by John Bailey, have raised the specter that Dana Gentry, an experienced journalist who produces “Face to Face,” is guilty of some kind of venality in reporting on hard-money lender Guinn’s dispute with his investors — a dispute that has resulted in an ever-tightening federal investigation.

I won’t go into all of the details – you can read more here – but suffice it to say that Guinn and Bailey have consistently asserted in papers filed with the court false allegations against Gentry — accusations she could easily disprove — simply to blacken her reputation.

It is revolting. It is unconscionable. And the highest court in the state is poised, I am convinced, to stop it and ensure this never happens again.

From the beginning, Gentry has wanted to respond to the obscene insinuations, as anyone with integrity would. But she knows — as do many others who have rallied behind her — what opening the door to answering those questions would mean: Not just more inquiries, but a tacit acknowledgement that the methods are appropriate and tolerable. They are neither.

It would be hard to argue that if Guinn and Bailey had evidence that Gentry had done something wrong that she should not be compelled to submit to their questioning. But they have not provided an iota of information to indicate they have any cause to bring the motion, only a list of “when did you stop beating your wife?” questions without any backup.

District Court Judge Allan Earl rightly quashed the original subpoena and suggested that he would be willing to hold a hearing if the lawyers submitted a brief with any evidence. They don’t have any. So they appealed to the high court, hoping the justices would give them a fishing license.

Now, instead of leaving this issue of whether lawyers can flout rights and invade privacy in limbo, the high court will likely render a precedent-setting ruling. Does anyone doubt what it will be?

I have never believed there was a case here. But I also never knew that it was permissible to put just about any garbage in a legal document and file it with a court of law. Is this like Winston Churchill’s democracy — a terrible system but better than any other?

From the beginning, though, I have had faith in the system, confidence that Guinn and Bailey would not get away with this. And my belief has not wavered.

And so here we are. I am glad the high court will rule on this. We have had two superb attorneys working on the case — Don Campbell and Maggie McLetchie — and we have received amazing support from the community and from organizations willing to sign onto an amicus brief. The ACLU, the Review-Journal’s parent company (Stephens Media), the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Nevada Press Association have signed on. My only real disappointment has been the Nevada Broadcasters Association, which has unbelievably dithered and refused to lend its backing.

Others have not been so timorous. We have had welcome public eviscerations of Bailey’s execrable antics from the likes of colleagues such as Elizabeth Crum of “The Agenda” and the Sun’s editorial writers as well as competitors such as Steve Sebelius and John L. Smith.

To say we appreciate these public floggings of what these people are doing is inadequate. We are humbled and grateful.

The past few months have been filled with frustration and uncertainty for Gentry, who has chafed against allegations made in public documents that she has been unable to rebut. To condone this kind of behavior by lawyers, to codify this kind of legal McCarthyism is unimaginable. And that’s why I don’t see any other explanation than that the Supreme Court justices, outraged by the tactics used by Guinn and his hit men, are going to come down with a precedent-setting ruling that will prevent any other lawyers from ever engaging in this outrageous conduct.

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