The defamation suit that Sarah Palin has brought against the New York Times has taken a strange turn. Judge Jed Rakoff has refused the request of the Times to dismiss the suit. However, the judge is not allowing the action to proceed right away either. Instead, he has issued a “close question” about the central issue of the suit. That matter is whether or not the editorial board of the New York Times showed actual malice when it suggested that Palin was directly responsible for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords and a number of other people because of a campaign graphic that placed cross hairs over the then congresswoman’s district.

What is the ‘close question?’

Palin and her lawyers are asserting that the editorial board of the New York Times displayed malice against the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate because the Times had already published stories refuting the theory that it had asserted in the offending editorial. In his order, Judge Rakoff states, “However, these prior stories arguably would only evidence actual malice if the person(s) who wrote the editorial were aware of them.”

To answer the question about whether or not the editors of the Times were aware of the newspaper’s reporting on the subject, Judge Rakoff has ordered a hearing to take place. The authors of the offending editorial will be asked to testify about their knowledge of the prior reporting.

Palin’s lawyers will have 45 minutes to cross exam the editors. Then the judge will rule on the question and whether or not the suit can proceed.

How the New York Times is caught like a rat in a trap

The authors of the editorial will, or course, claim that they had no idea that the Times had already reported that Palin had no responsibility for the shooting, that Jared Loughner was an insane person who never heard of Palin, never saw the graphic, but had an unhealthy obsession with Giffords.

To admit otherwise would pretty much prove Palin’s case and might cause the judge to move to a summary judgment. At the very least, the answer would constitute persuasive evidence if the suit went to trial.

However, by denying knowledge that they knew about their own newspaper’s reporting on the alleged Palin connection, the editors of the New York Times will have admitted that they are too stupid to run one of the largest, more famous newspapers on the planet. Such an admission should place their continued employment at the Times in jeopardy. Either way, Sarah Palin will have the satisfaction and the New York Times will be humiliated into the dust.