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Courtney Love wins trademark libel case

Jury rules that Love did not defame her former lawyer.


Kate Knibbs

Internet Culture

Posted on Jan 28, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 8:05 pm CDT

Courtney Love tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. She’s been in catfights with Madonna, gotten into Twitter spats with her own daughter, and she called Dave Grohl a “sub-mediocre kind of guy” once, which is both an awesomely mean thing to say and not true. 

While most of Love’s smack-talking results in bad press, a tweet she sent in 2010 resulted in something even more serious: Love’s former lawyer brought a libel case against the smeared-lipstick siren. 

San Diego Lawyer Rhonda J. Holmes, who represented Love in 2008 and 2009, filed suit after Love accused her of taking a bribe on Twitter. Before their falling out, Holmes was helping Love with a fraud case.

The exact wording of Love’s (now deleted) tweet:

I was fucking devestated [sic] when Rhonda J Holmes esq of San Diego was bought off. I’ve been hiring and firing lawyers to help me with this.

The tweet was up for around an hour before it was deleted, but that hour was enough to make Holmes worry about her reputation being sullied. 

This case makes Courtney Love the first person to defend herself in a Twitter libel suit; while other complaints have been filed, this is the first to go to trial and may end up setting an important precedent when it comes to defamation suits based on the popular micro-blogging platform. 

While this is the first “Twibel” lawsuit to go to trial, it’s actually not even the first “Twibel” suit for Love. In 2009, she paid $430,000 to settle a suit made by a Dawn Simorangkir, a fashion designer Love had disparaged in tweets and on her MySpace page. Love had called Simorangkir, among other things, an “asswipe nasty lying hosebag thief” and “drug-pushing prostitute with a history of assault and battery who lost custody of her own child,” so in that case the defamation charges were a little more straightforward. 

While Love settled up in the initial case against her, she went in guns blazing this time around, and it worked. Holmes needed to prove that Love intended for the tweet to be public, which is where her case went off the track. Love’s lawyers successfully argued that the hard-living musician had meant to send the offending statement in a Direct Message, and that Love quickly deleted the tweet after she realized she’d sent it out publicly. “I’m sort of a computer retard,” Love explained to the jury. 

With Love’s offending tweet up for such a short time before she deleted it, her lawyers’ argument seemed entirely plausible. It took the jury just three hours to determine that Love’s tweet was not defamatory. 

Holmes sought $8 million in damages. While she lost the trial, Holmes’ lawyer Mitchell Langberg said the attorney was happy that her reputation had been restored. “At the end of the day, her biggest asset in life is her reputation,” Langberg told reporters. “That she got back today.” I’m not entirely sure that’s true—Holmes will forever be known as the lady who lost against Courtney Love now, after all—but I guess it’s good she’s looking on the bright side. 

Love celebrated her win, appropriately enough, on Twitter: 

Can’t shut me up…now we go beyond #twibel @willkeenan

— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) January 27, 2014

I can’t thank you enough Dongell Lawrence Finney LLP, the most incredible law firm on the planet.We won this epic battle. #justiceprevails

— Courtney Love Cobain (@Courtney) January 25, 2014

H/T The Awl | Photo via Flickr/georgia

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*First Published: Jan 28, 2014, 12:05 pm CST