Judge Rules Chip Thoma’s Claims Against Sarah Palin Baseless

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Sep 28, 2012

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In 2009, at the height of her fame, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was sued by neighbor and activist Chip Thoma with claims that Palin tried to silence his complaints over excessive traffic around the governor’s mansion.

This week the lawsuit against Palin was struck down by U.S District Judge Timothy Burgess, granting her a summary judgment. Judge Burgess ruled that Thoma failed to show the court sufficient evidence to back up his claim.  

“Palin’s attorney, John Tiemessen, said the ruling means that, as a matter of law, no valid claims stand, and it should lead to dismissal of the case,” Huffington Post reports.

Thoma was suing for $100,000 saying that while Palin was in office she took measures to discredit and embarrass him after he complained about the tour busses. Thomas claimed in his lawsuit that he brought the issue to the attention of authorities, and made efforts to rally the public around the perceived problem. In response, he claimed, Palin and associates “twisted” his words and made up stories about him.

But these claims were backed only by Thoma himself’s affidavit and in the end, the judge could not find the other evidence admissible.

Why Was Thoma’s Evidence Not Admissible?

Thoma’s most promising piece of evidence that Palin was harassing him was a manuscript by former Palin aide, Frank Bailey, that was leaked early to the public. In Bailey’s book, he stated that Palin aides did in fact take action to discredit Chip Thoma.

But Judge Burgess determined, among other reasons, that the book could not be considered in the motion for summary judgment because the statements made in it were “inadmissible hearsay.” Leaving Thoma with no substantial proof and thus no basis to carry on the lawsuit.

Inadmissible hearsay is one of the more common reasons evidence is thrown out in a case. In legal terms, hearsay is a statement made by a third party not present in the courtroom at the time the evidence is offered. Statements deemed hearsay are not admissible as evidence of the truth in the majority of cases.

So Thoma’s attempt to use Bailey’s statements to support his claims would not hold up in a court of law because Bailey wasn’t there to refute or confirm. Thus, Judge Burgess’s decision. This does not mean however, that Palin was found guilty or not guilty, or that Thoma’s claims weren’t factual, only that the Plaintiff was not able to find enough “admissible” evidence to continue the trial.

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