Using a Cease and Desist Letter to Stop Slander and Libel

Written by J. Hirby and Fact Checked by The Law Dictionary Staff  

A cease and desist letter is a legal vehicle used before and for the purpose of avoiding having to file a lawsuit. It details the slander and libel and informs the accused party of the accuser's intent to sue if the problem is not corrected and retractions of harmful statements are not made.

About Slander and Libel

Slander and libel are legally defined terms for defamation that require the speech to be financially through damage to your reputation, publicly spread to multiple third parties and objectively false. In order for your cease and desist letter to be taken seriously, you must be able to demonstrate that your slander or libel lawsuit has a chance of succeeding in court by indicating details about the publicity, falsehood and damages associated with the instances of defamation you wish to stop.

The Logic Behind a Cease and Desist Letter

Sometimes the threat of legal action is enough to compel someone to change what they are doing. Few people wish to get involved in the paperwork and courtroom appearances that a defamation lawsuit would require. Not only would a successful lawsuit end up causing the accused party more money for court costs, but it would take up the accused party's time and could even damage their reputation. A cease and desist letter is a way of giving someone a chance to stop what they are doing and avoid the hassle of a legal fight.

Depending on the nature of the defamation actions, the tone of the cease and desist letter may be more formal or informal. If defamation is currently a threat to your business's income and operations, the letter should have a severe tone and promise immediate legal action if the situation is not rectified. In this case it would be a good idea to have your lawyer draft your letter so you are sure to touch on all the points. If the defamation only has the potential to become more harmful, the letter may be less severe.

What to Include in Your Cease and Desist Letter

The points you should touch on in your letter include:

  • Descriptions of each false statement or class of statements that you wish the party to stop making as well as the request that they stop making them.
  • Reasoning why the statements are false.
  • Descriptions of how the false statements affect your job, reputation and business.
  • Informing that you will file a lawsuit if said statements are not stopped and retracted within a set time period.

Because this is a formal legal document, you should title the letter with the words "Demand to Cease and Desist" and date it as well as include recipient and sender name and address information in the letterhead.

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