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Byrge v. Campfield

Court of Appeals of Tennessee, Knoxville

September 8, 2014

ROGER BYRGE
v.
STACEY CAMPFIELD, ET AL.

Session February 4, 2014

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Campbell County No. 14326 John D. McAfee, Judge

David H. Dunaway, LaFollette, Tennessee, for the appellant, Roger Byrge.

Jonathan Swann Taylor, Knoxville, Tennessee, for the appellee, Stacey Campfield.

D. Michael Swiney, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which John W. McClarty and Thomas R. Frierson, II, JJ., joined.

OPINION

D. MICHAEL SWINEY, JUDGE

Background

The context of this case is the Tennessee general election campaign of 2008[1]. Partisan control of the Tennessee State House of Representatives was hotly contested that year. Enter Campfield, then a Republican State Representative for the 18th District. Campfield, who since the events of this case went on to serve as a State Senator, set up a blog called "camp4u." Campfield's blog was a type of interactive portal through which he interacted with constituents and commented on politics of the day. One political topic that caught Campfield's attention was the race in the 36th State House District featuring Democrat Byrge, a veteran deputy sheriff's officer. The race was considered to be a close contest.

On October 14, 2008, Campfield posted the entry on his blog that would spark this lawsuit. The blog post contained allegations that Byrge had a drug-related arrest record. Entitled "A tale of two races, " here is the post in its entirety:

It is a little odd When an east Tennessee paper adds a dig about a middle Tennessee state house race to a story about senate fund raising. I guess it is OK because the dig attacks a Republican running against an incumbent Democrat for an old DUI conviction.
OK. Fair enough. You can say its news.
But don't you think it would be a little more interesting if it was the news about a close open seat race? A race that is not only close in the polls but is also close to Knoxville. Where the story isn't just alcohol related but is also drug related? How could it be better? How bout if the person convicted was running against a police officer? Where could we find such a race? Such an interesting dichotomy? How bout where Roger Byrge is running against police officer Chad Faulkner? Word is a similar mail piece has gone out exposing Byrges multiple separate drug arrests. Including arrests for possession and drug dealing. (I hear the mug shots are gold).
Of course in that race the Democrat, Byrges has a chance to win the formerly Republican held seat. I guess we will see that story about as much as we see the story of the sexual harassment hush money given to keep the Democrat in office who replaced Mark Foley.
No news there, nothing to see, Move along.
posted by the rep @ 6:56 AM

Unfortunately, there was a problem. The allegations concerning Byrge were false. Byrge had no such arrest record. Byrge lost the election, and, in November 2008, sued Campfield for defamation. Byrge sought extensive damages for libel, false light invasion of privacy, emotional distress, and injury to his reputation. Campfield filed an answer, asserting a host of defenses. Byrge filed an amended complaint and more procedural matters unfolded. Republican Glen Casada ("Casada"), Chairman of the House Republican Caucus in the Tennessee General Assembly, and the Tennessee Republican Party were added as defendants. Casada allegedly had ...


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