Banks v. Milum

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/16/2004

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Georgia

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$50,000.00
David Milum, upset with his lawyer Rafe Banks over the handling of a prior case, demanded that Banks pay back the $3,000 in fees he had received. When Banks refused, Milum posted entries on the Forsyth County Political Forum, a... read full description
Parties

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Rafe Banks

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Milum

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Location of Party: 

  • Georgia

Location of Party: 

  • Georgia

Legal Counsel: 

B. Ray Woodard, Jeffrey Butler
Description

David Milum, upset with his lawyer Rafe Banks over the handling of a prior case, demanded that Banks pay back the $3,000 in fees he had received. When Banks refused, Milum posted entries on the Forsyth County Political Forum, a local political website he ran, in which he accused Banks of delivering bribes to judges on behalf of drug dealers.

According to court filings in the case, on May 10, 2004, Milum posted an entry titled "Polo Fields Residents Don’t Know About Attorney Rafe Banks?" In it, Milum stated:

Are you a drug dealer when you have an ounce of cocaine in your possession worth hundreds of dollars or when you carry $25,000.00 to a Superior Court judge . . . to keep a drug dealer out of jail? Are you a drug dealer when you have a gram of methamphetamine in your possession or is it when you arrange for a lifelong drug dealer to escape doing eighteen years in federal prison for attempted murder? Polo Fields resident Rafe Banks is both. For the proof of this, visit our . . . video. . . . A cocaine dealer names Rafe Banks as being involved in bribing judges here in Forsyth County and in Federal Court in Miami. . . . Rafe Banks will never make one single move against me or this website because he knows that we have the witnesses to prove that he carried these drug dealer payoffs to [a] judge . . . .

After a reader asked whether Milum was also criticizing all lawyers who represented drug dealers, Milum responded: "No. This does not include those attorneys who simply defend drug dealers. I am speaking of transporting substantial bribes, as did attorney Rafe Banks, to those crooked judges . . . to get drug dealers off . . . ."

On June 9, 2004, according to court filings Milum posted another comment on the site entitled "Cumming Attorney Rafe Banks, Drug Dealer Bribery Mule," in which he stated:

Rafe Banks, do you still take drug dealer bribes to Forsyth County judges? How long has it been since you delivered to a judge $25,000 in cash for the release of a drug dealer? I know that you carried this kind of cash to [a] late Forsyth County Superior Court judge. . . . I have witnesses to that fact. Which judge do you pay bribes to now Rafe, since [that judge] went to hell? Is it [another] Forsyth County judge?

Later, Milum posted a comment in which he taunted his former lawyer:

Rafe, don’t you wish you had given back my three thousand dollar retainer, when I asked you too [sic], because I found out you were helping them set me up? Rafe, do you also remember how I fired your ass, not once but twice before two different judges in Forsyth County courtrooms? That had to sting, didn’t it? How about now Rafe, are you still selling out your clients, as you did me? How much of that dirty drug money did it take for you to buy that big house in Polo Fields, Rafe? . . . I’ll ask again: can you hear those courthouse doors rattling now Rafe Banks Cumming Georgia attorney, who is a drug dealer bribery mule?

On June 16, 2004, Banks’ attorney sent Milum a letter demanding that he retract his statements.  After Milum declined to do so, Banks sued him in Forsyth County Superior Court for libel.

The case went to a jury trial in January 2006.  At the trial, Milum acknowledged that in his previous interrogatories he had named nine people with personal knowledge of the bribery allegations but testified that he was not stating facts when he posted his comments online, but simply giving his opinion.  None of the witnesses, however, testified that they personally knew anything about Banks bribing anyone.

After deliberating for two days, the jury found Milum liable for defamation and awarded Banks $50,000 in general damages, but no punitive damages.  Milum gave up operating the website shortly thereafter.

A Georgia appellate court affirmed the verdict, holding that Banks was properly characterized as a limited-purpose public figure, which meant that Banks had to show that Milum "published false and defamatory statements knowing that they were false or acting in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity."  According to the appellate court, the jury sought clarification  during deliberations as to whether a public figure can be libeled and the court reiterated the definition offered by Milum's attorneys, "that a 'public figure' is one who by reason of notoriety of his achievements or the vigor and success with which he seeks the public's attention has commanded or is in a position to command a substantial amount of public interest."

Update:

3/5/2007 - The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the jury award for $50,000

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
Court Information & Documents

Jurisdiction: 

  • Georgia

Source of Law: 

  • Georgia

Court Name: 

Forsyth County Superior Court, Georgia

Court Type: 

State

Case Number: 

A06A2394

Relevant Documents: 

CMLP Information (Private)

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get court documents