Unfortunately, the evolution of the common law left the living with civil defamation laws and the dead with criminal defamation laws. The latter have either fell into disuse or been repealed, as was California’s criminal libel statute, in 1986.
Now, if a person is dead nearly anything can be said or written about him. For example, President Johnson was accused of being a “multiple murderer” by Barr McClellan in Blood, Money and Power: How L.B.J. Killed J.F.K., (Defaming The Dead: A Legal remedy for Absurd Charges That LBJ Murdered JFK, http://writ.lp.findlaw.com.dean.20040312.html )
First Lady Betty Ford was also slandered. According to the Westboro Baptist Church she encouraged American women to “engage in extra-marital sex” according to the Christian Post. http://www.christianpost.com/news/westboro-baptist-church-to-protest-at-betty-ford-funeral-52178/ Even the non-famous can be targets (see Catsouras v Department of the California Highway Patrol 2010 G039916) which means that we and our loved ones are at risk.
CADeflaw’s goal is simple. We wish to include the deceased among those who can be legally defamed in California and give their families a statute upon which to base a civil cause of action.
Julie Noel, Legal Analyst