Judge Sues WTVF Investigative Reporter Over ‘Retaliatory’ Story

By Andrew Gauthier 

A Nashville judge is suing WTVF’s Phil Williams, alleging that the veteran investigative reporter conjured up a negative story about him after the judge failed to dismiss a parking ticket that Williams had received.

Judge Daniel B. Eisenstein is accusing WTVF of running “false and libelous” stories about him last year, including one that intimated that he was the target of an ethics investigation.

According to the lawsuit, Williams received two parking tickets one day in May 2010 while parked outside of police headquarters. Williams had parked in a media parking space and, when police later realized that he was there working on a story, a police captain wrote a letter to the Traffic Violation Bureau asking that one of the tickets be dismissed.

Eisenstein decided not to dismiss the ticket and Williams ended up paying both of them. Less than a month after Eisenstein’s decision, Williams produced an investigative report that floated the question of whether the judge was under an ethics investigation.

At the time of the story, Eisenstein’s lawyer insisted that he was not under any such investigation but Williams pressed on, quoting a court filing that hinted that the judge may be under investigation.

Adding another layer of intrigue to Eisenstein’s lawsuit is the fact that Williams has made a name for himself reporting on so-called ticket fixing by local judges and police officers.

In 2007, Williams’s series “The Ticket Fix” was honored with a national Emmy and WTVF ran a series of investigative reports in 2009 about another “major ticket-fixing scandal” in which government workers and local celebrities were having their traffic tickets dismissed.

The suit lists Williams, station manager Lyn Plantinga, news director Sandy Boonstra, and WTVF’s parent company Landmark Media Enterprises as defendants. Eisenstein is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, as well as a retraction.

A lawyer for WTVF told Nashville’s City Paper that the station disputes the allegations. “We don’t believe they’re valid claims, and we’ll seek to dismiss the lawsuit at the appropriate time,” the lawyer said.

Here’s the aforementioned WTVF report, “Is Another Nashville Judge Under Ethics Investigation?”

[Via Courthouse News]