Chastity and Solvency in Florida Law

Gloria Allred says she wants Rush Limbaugh prosecuted under Section 836.04 of the Florida Code:

836.04 Defamation.–Whoever speaks of and concerning any woman, married or unmarried, falsely and maliciously imputing to her a want of chastity, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

I assume Allred is kidding about this, but if the statute is valid it looks to me as if Rushbo’s actions were squarely within it. (On the other hand, just how “chaste” does the victim of the defamation have to be in fact?) I assume that it’s unconstitutional to punish defamation criminally, and that in any case the statute is an unrepealed dead letter from some earlier century.

But how about this doozy?

836.06 Punishment for making derogatory statements concerning banks and building and loan associations.– Any person who shall willfully and maliciously make, circulate or transmit to another or others any false statement, rumor or suggestion, written, printed or by word of mouth, which is directly or by inference derogatory to the financial condition or affects the solvency or financial standing of any banking institution or building and loan association doing business in this state, or who shall counsel, aid, procure or induce another to start, transmit or circulate any such statement or rumor, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree.

A character in one of Heinlein’s novels (maybe the Professor in The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?) suggests that legislatures be required to repeal two old statues for every new one they pass. You can see where he was coming from.

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Mark Kleiman

Mark Kleiman is a professor of public policy at the New York University Marron Institute.