The Washingtonienne Lawsuit, Invasion of Privacy, and Restoring One's Good Name:

This AP account (noted below by Jonathan) reports:

When Robert Steinbuch discovered his girlfriend had discussed intimate details about their sex life in her online diary, the Capitol Hill staffer didn't just get mad. He got a lawyer....

Neither Steinbuch nor his attorney returned phone calls seeking comment. In court, attorney Jonathan Rosen said Steinbuch wants to restore his good name....

It seems to me that Steinbuch can't be trying to restore his good name here. Unless some new claim has been added to the complaint, this is simply a "civil action for invasion of privacy for public revelation of private facts," not a defamation claim. Nothing in this lawsuit will "restore [Steinbuch's] good name." In fact, to the extent that the original blog besmirched Steinbuch's good name, the extra publicity created by the lawsuit will only besmirch that name further.

A libel lawsuit will often have a similar effect, but at least the plaintiff could hope that a favorable verdict will announce to the world that defendant's allegations against the plantiff were false, and that the world should see the plaintiff in a better light. A disclosure of private facts lawsuit can at most transfer money to the plaintiff, and compensate him for the emotional distress that he has assertedly suffered because of the defendant's statements. It can't restore the plaintiff's good name — or, to be precise, the reputation that plaintiff had before these "private intimate facts" (not lies but facts) were revealed.

UPDATE: Though the complaint that I linked to refers only to the disclosure of private facts tort, and the press account seems to echo that, it appears that the complaint was indeed amended to add a false light invasion of privacy claim. This claim is like a libel claim, in that alleges that defendant said false things, but it focuses on the emotional distress caused by false allegations about private matters, rather than reputational damage (which is what libel cases are all about).

So it still doesn't seem like plaintiff's lawsuit is about "restoring his good name"; such attempts to unblemish one's reputation are usually the province of defamation lawsuits. It's possible that a verdict in plaintiff's favor on the false light theory will establish that some of the allegations were false and offensively so, so perhaps some clearing of the plaintiff's name might take place. But on balance, given that the lawsuit in large measure alleges the disclosure of facts (albeit private ones), and given that it further publicizes all of defendant's allegations, both the assertedly false and the true, it's still hard to see how the lawsuit is likely to restore the plaintiff's good name.

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