PLACE YOUR BETS: “Did he make an honest mistake, or did he, because of his animus against Palin and Republicans generally, repeat the smear even though he knew or suspected it was false?”
Of course, there’s an in-between that is more likely: What if he didn’t know or suspect it was false, but repeated the smear because of his animus and bias? As the Constitutional Law stands, if that’s the case, I think he gets off scot-free. (That’s common-law malice, not “Actual Malice.”)
One could argue that this is the transaction cost of living in a society that protects mistakes made for the right reason, but on the other hand, there’s something perverse in the fact that one can legitimately tell a judge in many circumstances that “my client was under no obligation to do any research” and have a libel case dismissed.