“Enter Legal Disclaimer Here” (UPDATED)

Maybe you’ve heard of Steve Cooksey, who is engaged in a legal skirmish with the State of North Carolina over his paleo blog.

I know a lot about legal skirmishes, and I also know a little about North Carolina, having lived there a spell during college.

It will be interesting to learn the outcome of the First Amendment lawsuit this blogger has filed in federal court in Charlotte. If I have a little extra time, I’ll pull the brief from PACER and take a look at the arguments. (UPDATE: SEE BELOW).  Even though I don’t live in NC, the fact that this is a federal case means the ruling could potentially impact  bloggers all over the U.S.

Do I REALLY need a license and legal disclaimer* to write about the paleo diet, and describe how paleo living has helped me?  Hopefully the answer will be NO.

But now my curiosity is piqued, so I’ll have to go check the rules/regulations here in Florida to see if there is some comparable statute.

*I am not a doctor, or a nutrition scientist, or anything except a lawyer. This silly li’l ol’ weblog is not intended to be legal advice, diet advice, or any other kind of advice. A paleo template has helped me slim down and build muscle, but you may wish to consult your doctor, nutritionist, and/or your common sense before deciding on a new way to eat.

UPDATED:   As usual, I am struck by how much information and nuance is left out by the news when reporting on legal matters.  Lots of interesting nuance and information are omitted.  This is not a commentary on the link I included above… Reuters reported the same (limited) amount of info.  Anyhow, I pulled up the case docket, which was filed May 29, 2012 in the Western District of North Carolina.  Cooksey recently moved for an injunction against the state.  The Court, in denying the motion on August 8, 2012, stated in part:

The court is mindful of the positive changes that plaintiff has made in his own life and plaintiff undoubtedly serves as an inspirational figure who can empower others to begin to take charge of their health.  However, the public interest in accurate medical information is strong. After all, defendants began investigating plaintiff based on a complaint from a member of the community who was clearly concerned about plaintiff’s conduct.  Plaintiff is still free to post his experience online and voice his opinion at community discussions, and members of the public may still visit plaintiff’s website and use his inspirational story as a springboard to discuss their individual condition with a qualified practitioner.  Therefore, the court concludes that the fourth element, public interest, will not be served by an injunction.
This is just one initial battle in this case (there is also a Motion to Dismiss pending). To get an injunction requires that you meet a pretty high, 4-element standard, so the denial of the motion for the injunction it doesn’t mean Cooksey will lose his case.  But regardless, the Court here is recognizing that blogging that does not cross the line into specific advice or “coaching” is OK, and also seems to tilt in favor of NC being able to regulate this type of .  So, where is the line drawn?   It’s interesting case, not only for food/diet-related bloggers but other subject matters as well.

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