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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:In the 1990s, Joe Ed Bunton said � as the host of his own public-access television program in Palestine- that local district judge Bascom Bentley III was “corrupt” and a “criminal” who “oughta be in jail.” Bunton refused Bentley’s request to stop making such comments, and Bentley sued for defamation. The trial court found that Bunton’s comments were per se defamatory and that they were made with actual malice. The trial court ordered Bunton to pay Bentley $150,000 for past and future loss of character and reputation, $7 million for past mental anguish and $1 million for exemplary damages. The appeals court affirmed the judgment, but this court remanded to that court to consider the excessiveness of the award to mental anguish damages. On remand, the appeals court found the $7 million award was not supported by the evidence and reduced the amount to $150,000. Despite the fact that the reduction meant that the exemplary damages ($1 million) were now more than three times the compensatory damages ($300,000), the appeals court did not adjust the exemplary damages. The court said it did not adjust the amount, because Bunton did not complain on appeal about the amount of the exemplary damages award. Before this court again, Bunton challenges both the compensatory and the exemplary damages awards. HOLDING:Affirmed in part; reversed and remanded in part. The court first concludes that the evidence supports the sustained compensatory damages award, at least in the amount of $150,000. Bentley presented evidence that the ordeal caused him to lose sleep, caused him to be embarrassed in the local community and disrupted his family. While the court agrees that an appellant ordinarily waives a complaint about a trial court judgment that he doesn’t raise to the court of appeals, the court also points out that the complaint here arose from the court of appeals’ judgment itself. When that happens, the losing party can ask for a motion for rehearing in the court of appeals or a petition for review in this court. Under this standard, Bunton’s complaint that the exemplary damages were unconstitutionally excessive arose from the court of appeals’ judgment and may be raised in this court for the first time. The court finds that it wasn’t enough for the court of appeals to note the more than three-to-one ratio of exemplary damages to compensatory damages. The appeals court should also have applied the principles of BMW of North America Inc. v. Gore, 517 U.S. 559 (1996), to ensure that the punitive damages award is both reasonable and proportional. “Because the exemplary damages must bear a reasonable relation to the defendant’s conduct and to the actual harm suffered, a claim that the exemplary damages are grossly disproportionate may therefore arise any time the compensatory damages are significantly adjusted. Ideally, the court of appeals should automatically reevaluate exemplary damages whenever compensatory damages are reduced.” OPINION:Per curiam.

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