BOLIVIA, NC (WWAY) — It was a Facebook post meant to be viewed by friends. But Edward Rapp’s comments about Judge Ola Lewis turned into a libel suit after it ended up on an internet blog. Now the lawsuit is back in court.
After two years of battling, a libel suit filed by the Brunswick County Senior Resident Superior Court Judge is being tried for a third time. This time, Judge Lewis is seeking punitive damages.
Lewis claims Rapp defamed her by claiming her support for a political candidate was a violation of judicial standards.
Rapp says the statement was not about lewis specifically and should be considered protected free speech.
In court Tuesday, a visiting judge from Mecklenberg County hearing the case let the two sides argue whether complaints filed against Judge Lewis would be admissible.
Rapp’s attorney said the Judicial Standard Commission complaints, including one filed by the Brunswick County Clerk of Courts, speak to the judge’s character. He also said a Bar Association survey and multiple e-mail complaints back up their claim.
Judge Lane Williamson decided not to admit the complaints, because no action was ever taken against Lewis. Williamson said he would allow the Bar Association survey as evidence, but only if Judge Lewis still has the form, because the Bar Association does not keep a copy.
Both sides agreed there will be no expert witnesses called to testify.
During jury selection, potential jurors were asked to put any political biases or past experiences with Judge Lewis aside and determine whether there was strong, clear, and convincing malice in this case.
The first time the case was tried, Rapp won. Lewis won a partial appeal, which led to this retrial.
Testimony starts tomorrow. Both sides expect a verdict by Friday.