Being defamed in New York (or any state for that matter) can be frustrating and confusing. You may wonder what you can do to stop the defamation and restore your reputation, and where you can find a reliable New York defamation attorney.
Fortunately, New York has no shortage of knowledgeable and experienced defamation attorneys who can help you stop the lies and get your life back.
Here are five of the top defamation lawyers in New York:
- C.A. Goldberg LLC;
- Lewis & Lin LLC;
- Daniel Szalkiewicz & Associates;
- Law Office of Richard A. Altman;
- Henry R. Kaufman, P.C.
At Minc Law, we value honesty and transparency. We understand we are not a perfect match for everyone, so we help victims of defamation find experienced attorneys that can offer the help they need. That means we are happy to help you find a lawyer that suits you – even if it is not our firm.
Below, I will explain New York’s defamation laws and what you should do if you are defamed in New York. Then I will provide step-by-step instructions for finding the New York defamation lawyer that is right for you.
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Best Places to Look For a Defamation Attorney in New York
Defamation is stressful and it can feel especially daunting to find the right attorney when you are also struggling with the consequences of defamation. Below are several important considerations when looking for a defamation attorney.
What Should You Do As Soon As You Find Yourself At the Start of a Defamation Lawsuit in New York?
If you are being defamed and considering a lawsuit, you should ask yourself a few questions first:
- Do you have a valid claim for defamation?
- How does New York law define defamation of character?
- How do you file a defamation lawsuit?
In the sections that follow, I will elaborate on each question and give you the information you need to make an informed decision when selecting a defamation lawyer.
Defamation Insurance Tip: Some insurance policies protect individuals and businesses from defamation claims – providing you with a defense if you are accused of defamation. Unless you are involved in a high-risk profession like journalism, blogging, or media you probably do not need defamation insurance.
Do You Have A Valid Claim For Defamation?
There is a fine line between what is considered defamation (also referred to as defamation of character) and what could be considered a mere opinion. Not every embarrassing statement (or bad business review) qualifies as defamatory. The best way to understand whether your claim meets the basic criteria for defamation is to look at how New York defines defamation.
New York law defines defamation as:
- A false statement (about or concerning the plaintiff) purporting to be fact,
- Published (or spoken) by the defendant to a third party,
- Which injures the reputation of the plaintiff, and
- The defendant was at least negligent in making the statement.
For a more in-depth look at each of these elements, we recommend viewing our New York Defamation Law Guide.
New York Defamation Law
In Mencher v. Chesley, a New York court defined defamation as a statement “which tends to expose a person to hatred, contempt, or aversion or to induce an evil or unsavory opinion in the minds of a substantial number of people in the community.”
In a nutshell, New York considers damage to one’s reputation as the essence of defamation. Plaintiffs will need to show that a particular statement caused them harm to succeed on a defamation claim.
As a whole, plaintiffs will need to prove:
- That the defendant made a false statement about the plaintiff.
- The statement was communicated to a third party without authorization.
- The defendant acted negligently with respect to whether their statement was true or false (i.e., they did not bother to investigate whether their statement was true before making it).
- The statement was either defamation per se (libel per se or slander per se) or caused special harm.
While some states have criminal defamation laws, New York does not. This means New York defamation lawsuits will take the form of civil litigation – and defamers do not face criminal penalties like imprisonment.
Did You Suffer Any Reputational Damages?
In the course of a defamation lawsuit, you will repeatedly encounter the term, “damages.” Defamation damages are just a way of quantifying the harm experienced by a victim of defamation – so the victim can be properly compensated for their losses.
New York defamation damages can be split into four categories:
- Special damages,
- Presumed damages,
- Actual damages, and
- Punitive damages.
Special Damages in New York
Special damages typically apply in cases of defamation per quod – when a plaintiff has to provide proof of damages to succeed on their defamation claim.
In other words, the harm to the plaintiff’s reputation is not obvious or assumed, it must be evidenced by actual harm like a loss of customers or termination from a job.
Presumed Damages in New York
Presumed damages are associated with defamation per se and acknowledge that some statements are so defamatory that harm is assumed.
These damages may be awarded even when there is no evidence of actual damages, however, the award is often a nominal amount and can be as low as $1.
New York considers four types of statements defamation per se:
- Statements charging the plaintiff with a serious crime,
- Statements that tend to injure another in their trade, business, or profession,
- Statements imputing a loathsome disease, and
- Statements imputing unchastity on a woman.
Actual Damages in New York
Actual damages are provable, compensable losses that the plaintiff has suffered with respect to their property, business, trade, profession, or occupation.
Actual damages may also include any expenses the plaintiff incurred as a result of the defamatory statements. A common example of actual damages in a defamation case is lost income.
Punitive Damages in New York
Punitive damages, as the name implies, are meant to punish the defendant for particularly egregious conduct. This form of damages is rare because it requires additional evidence that proves a defendant’s state of mind when they made a particular statement.
In New York, a plaintiff must prove the defendant acted with actual malice to recover punitive damages. Actual malice can be proven when a defendant acts with hatred, ill-will, and spite when making a defamatory statement.
For instance, evidence that a plaintiff said they were going to “nail the (plaintiff) to the wall,” and “destroy him” raised an issue of actual malice under New York law.
Defamation Privilege Fact: Privilege is a common defense to defamation. Absolute privilege provides a speaker with an unqualified right to make certain statements at certain times, even if it might otherwise be defamatory. In New York, statements made by participants in a judicial proceeding, like lawyers and witnesses, are privileged. Essentially, you cannot sue individuals for statements made in the course of a judicial process.
Do You Have Evidence of the Defamation?
If you plan on filing a defamation lawsuit, you need to gather all available evidence related to the defamatory statement and its impact on your life. You will need to prove that the defendant made a false statement to others and provide evidence of the damages you suffered.
If the defamatory statement was made online, be sure to preserve the content by screenshotting the statement. You can also utilize professional preservation software like VisualPing or PageVault.
You also want to ensure you are preserving evidence and moving forward with your case in a timely manner. New York has a one-year defamation statute of limitations for filing a defamation lawsuit. This means you have one year from the time the statement was made or published to file a lawsuit.
One year is a relatively short period of time for gathering evidence and filing a lawsuit, so you will need to move quickly once you discover you have been defamed.
After you have preserved as much evidence as possible, you will want to speak with an experienced defamation attorney. Defamation lawsuits can involve complex legal issues, so you will want to speak with a lawyer who is familiar with online defamation before moving forward.
Defamation Defense Fact: Some defendants of defamation claims try to say their statements were protected speech, because individuals have a right to express their opinions. In New York, a blogger argued that internet speech is entitled to even greater protection for opinions because trash talk is so common online. The Supreme Court of New York held that internet speech is to be held to the same standard as other forms of speech.
Where Are The Best Places to Look for a Defamation Attorney in the State of New York?
While you should definitely ask friends and family if they can refer you to an experienced defamation attorney, you can also find attorneys on several websites.
Many websites have created attorney directories to help you find attorneys in your state, with the experience you are looking for.
Here are just a few of the websites we recommend checking out:
- Avvo.com. Avvo’s attorney directory lets you search for attorneys by practice area, city, state, and legal topic. Some attorneys also have Avvo ratings and reviews to help you narrow down your choice.
- FindLaw.com. FindLaw lets you browse defamation lawyers by state, metro area, or county. Their directory also lets you know if a particular firm offers free consultations.
- SuperLawyers.com. With this directory, you can search by legal issue and location to find a list of practicing defamation lawyers.
- Local Bar Association. The New York Bar Association offers a Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) to help you find a vetted attorney for your legal issue. LRIS attorneys also offer initial consultations at a reduced rate to gather more information about your situation.
How to Compare Defamation Attorneys in New York
Once you have gathered a list of potential defamation attorneys, you will want to narrow down your options before selecting one to work with.
Why is It Important to Compare Defamation Attorneys Before Choosing One?
It is important to compare defamation attorneys because attorneys’ experience and qualifications can vary greatly. Some attorneys might have significant experience and a high success rate but might require a higher retainer than you can afford.
Another attorney might be well within your budget but might not have as much experience as another attorney. Careful evaluation of all your options will help you land on an attorney that best suits your needs.
Where Can You Find Reviews of Defamation Attorneys in New York?
You can find attorney reviews on common review sites like Google, but there are also attorney-specific review sites worth checking out.
Here are some of the websites where you can find defamation attorney reviews:
- Better Business Bureau
What Should You Look For in a Defamation Attorney in New York?
Much like hiring anyone to perform work for you, you should approach hiring an attorney wisely.
Do not make a rushed decision on a whim without evaluating all of your options. Your relationship with your attorney should be built around trust. After all, you are entrusting them with your confidential information and need them to guide you through a complicated situation.
You also need to rely on your attorney for appropriate legal advice and online defamation is a highly specific niche. You should ensure your attorney is an internet defamation attorney because not every attorney is well-versed in online defamation.
In particular, you want to look for an attorney with the right combination of:
- Experience and expertise,
- A reputation of excellence,
- Convenience of location, and
- A favorable working rapport.
Experience & Expertise
Defamation is a very niche area of law, so it is important to find an attorney with experience in this field. Just as you would not go to a podiatrist for heart surgery, you do not want to go to an attorney who is not familiar with defamation.
An experienced defamation attorney can be very valuable because they will not need to spend hours researching simple issues such as Anti-SLAPP laws or Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
They will be familiar with the laws and defenses that commonly arise in defamation cases because they have already worked with them dozens (if not hundreds) of times before. This can come in handy when it is time for your monthly invoice – since they will not have to spend as much time familiarizing themselves with defamation laws.
A Reputation of Excellence
Attorneys are judged by their clients, judges, and their peers. Like virtually any other professional, attorneys develop a reputation over time. Attorneys who have a reputation for excellence are usually a good choice if they have time to take your case.
Try looking up an attorney’s reviews on common review platforms like Google or Yelp (or the own attorney’s website if they have one). This will help you get a decent idea as to what reputation the attorney has earned among their clientele.
Most defamation clients have limited budgets and need to consider exactly what they can afford. Before hiring an attorney, you will want a ballpark estimate of the total defamation lawsuit cost.
Most defamation attorneys work on a retainer fee basis and bill by the hour so you will most likely be paying for legal services out of pocket. However, there are some rare cases where an attorney will take on a matter on a contingency or pro bono basis.
Check with your prospective attorney to see if they offer any financing options either through their own firm or through a third-party broker.
Many attorneys offer free consultations where you can ask for a ballpark estimate of costs. You will also want to discuss if your lawsuit is worth the cost (based on what you might recover) or if there are alternative forms of relief that are more cost-friendly.
Video: Attorney Retainer Fee Agreement: What Is It & How Does It Work?
Convenience of Location
You have options when it comes to deciding where to file your lawsuit.
You can file a defamation lawsuit:
- Where you live or your business operates,
- Where the defendant lives or their business operates,
- Where your customers live, or
- Where you experienced damages due to the defamation.
Regardless of where you decide to file, you will need to work with an attorney licensed in that state. For instance, if you decide to file your defamation lawsuit in New York, you will need to work with a New York attorney.
However, there are ways an attorney in another state can represent you. If you are unable to find an attorney in your state that you want to work with, an out-of-state defamation lawyer may be able to handle your case while working with a local attorney.
This will entail retaining two attorneys – even if you only communicate with the out-of-state attorney, the local attorney will need to review pleadings to ensure they comply with state laws.
A Favorable Working Rapport
You will spend a significant amount of time working with your lawyer on a defamation lawsuit. If your case goes to trial, you will spend several hours with your attorney on trial preparation alone. Nobody wants to spend hours on end with a person they do not like. Keep this in mind when hiring an attorney!
Ideally, you will select an attorney with whom you have a great working rapport. You will need to communicate with one another regularly and effectively, so you should like one another. Mutual respect, honesty, trust, and transparency are all components of a good rapport – and you want these in any attorney-client relationship.
Questions to Ask a New York Defamation Attorney
Another way to narrow down your options for a defamation attorney is to ask questions. Of course, you want to make sure you are asking the right questions to get a complete picture of what the attorney offers.
Why is It Important to Create a List of Questions When Shopping For an Attorney?
Choosing a lawyer is a very important decision—whether you were in a car accident, have a medical malpractice claim, or find yourself the target of a criminal investigation. Referrals from friends or co-workers can be great, but you need to do your homework to make sure you have the right attorney for the job.
What Questions Should You Prepare to Ask a New York Defamation Attorney & What Answers Should You Look For?
There are a lot of questions to ask a potential attorney, and they will have many questions for you as well. Do not hesitate to ask questions of your attorney, they fully expect questions. In fact, it behooves you to get as much information about your case as possible, and to have an open dialog with any attorney you choose.
Of course, too many questions at once can lead to information overload. It is best to consider which questions you should be asking as your case moves forward. Specifically, you will have questions that are appropriate to ask before your consultation and others that are better asked during your initial meeting.
Before the Consultation
Before you consult with a defamation attorney, you should try to gather as much background information as possible. Most background information can be found on an attorney’s website, but you may also find some information on other websites like Google reviews or Yelp.
Here is the information you should try to determine before scheduling a consultation:
- Where the firm is located and who they serve;
- If they have testimonials or favorable reviews from clients;
- If they focus primarily on internet defamation and what experience they have with cases like yours;
- If they have any ethical sanctions with their state bar association;
- Whether they offer free consultations and what forms of payment they accept.
During the Consultation
When you meet with a potential attorney you will want to gather information about their process, expected costs, and the specifics of your situation.
The best way to find out how the lawyer (and the firm as a whole) operates is by asking questions like:
- Who will be my primary contact?
- Who will be working on my case?
- How will you communicate with me about my case?
- Who should I contact with questions about my case? What if I have questions about billing?
- How will billing work and when will I be charged?
- What could I reasonably expect this case to cost?
- How much will a retainer be? What happens if my retainer runs out?
- Are there any extra costs and expenses I should know about?
Finally, you will want to get into specifics about your case. Gather as much information as possible so you can make an informed decision about whether to move forward and what steps you should take.
Here are seven questions you should ask to learn more about your legal matter:
- Are my goals achievable?
- How many cases have you handled that are similar to mine? How did they turn out?
- How long will it take to achieve my case goals?
- What will you need from me throughout the case?
- What are some potential problems that might arise?
- Do you recommend any alternatives to solve my problem?
- What steps will we need to take to proceed?
Where Can You Find Examples of Questions to Ask a New York Defamation Attorney?
The list of questions provided above is just the tip of the iceberg. They are the basic, minimum questions you should ask any attorney you are considering hiring.
For more examples of questions to ask a defamation attorney, check out:
Top Defamation Attorneys in New York
If you are looking for defamation lawyers anywhere in the United States, check out our guide to top defamation lawyers in the U.S. However, for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the top five online defamation lawyers in New York only.
- Located in Brooklyn, New York
- Victims’ rights law firm with a focus on blackmail, extortion, stalking, harassment, revenge porn, domestic violence, and deepfakes. The firm also represents child victims, public figures, and victims of anti-abortion harassment.
- The firm employs several survivors, including those who were once clients of the firm – consistent with their firm philosophy of empowering victims.
- Founding attorney, Carrie Goldberg, Esq. is also the author of “Nobody’s Victim: Fighting Psychos, Stalkers, Pervs, and Trolls.”
- Office located in Brooklyn, New York.
- Lewis & Lin is a full-service law firm with a focus on defamation, invasion of privacy, unfair competition, and product disparagement.
- The firm obtained a judgment of $242,000 against a blogger who falsely claimed their client “embezzled” funds.
- Extensive history of removing copyright-infringing photos, transferring cybersquatted web domains, identifying anonymous online attackers, and removing false reviews.
- Located in New York, New York.
- More than four decades of experience specializing in intellectual property, defamation law, commercial litigation, constitutional rights, and media & communications.
- Richard A. Altman, Esq. was rate a 2020 Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters
- Attorney Altman is a member of many professional associations, a published writer, and a frequent speaker on intellectual property, litigation, and media law. He has litigated dozens of claims at nearly every level of court, including the Supreme Court.
- Office located in New York, New York.
- Media and publishing law boutique specializing in First Amendment defamation and reputation defense.
- Attorney Henry R. Kaufman holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review with Martindale-Hubbell and a 10.0 rating on AVVO. He has practiced in the field of defamation law for more than three decades.
Where Can You Find the Top-Rated Defamation Attorneys in New York?
Since our list of New York defamation lawyers only covers five firms, you can expand upon our list by doing some of your own research.
The following directories can help you find top-rated New York defamation attorneys:
How Can Minc Law Help You in Your Defamation Case in New York?
While we are based in Ohio, the attorneys at Minc Law are international online defamation attorneys. Working with local attorneys, we can represent clients in other states. In fact, we have litigated more than 350 cases in 26 states and 5 countries.
“They were very understanding. They did not judge me and they were very helpful. It gave me peace of mind to have someone who I could turn too in a stressful situation.”
Jordan Fong | January 7, 2022
We have the right mix of experience and expertise in online defamation laws and we have working relationships with attorneys in most states. With our knowledge of defamation law and connections with local lawyers who understand jurisdictional rules – we can help clients nearly anywhere. Our attorneys can also help you identify anonymous defamers, so you can hold them accountable for their actions and remove harmful online content.
For more information about cost-effective solutions to internet defamation, contact us at (216) 373-7706 or complete our online contact form.