Ms. Palin said in the lawsuit that the editorial contradicted other articles in The Times that dismissed the idea that political rhetoric had incited the rampage. “The Times had ample facts available that established that there was no connection between Mrs. Palin and Loughner’s crime,” she said.
The Times filed a motion to dismiss the case in July.
Earlier this month, Judge Rakoff had ordered the author of the editorial to testify in an unusual evidentiary hearing, saying that a central question he would consider when weighing The Times’s motion was whether Ms. Palin’s defamation complaint contained “sufficient allegations of actual malice.”
The “actual malice” standard for defamation holds that public officials have to show that news outlets knowingly published false information or had acted with “reckless disregard” for the truth.
James Bennet, the editor of The Times editorial page, testified on Aug. 16 that he had not intended to blame Ms. Palin for the 2011 shooting. Instead, he said, he was trying to make a point about the heated political environment.
In his ruling, Judge Rakoff said that the behavior of Mr. Bennet, who introduced the statements in question during the editing process, was “much more plausibly consistent with making an unintended mistake and then correcting it than with acting with actual malice.”
“Nowhere is political journalism so free, so robust, or perhaps so rowdy as in the United States,” Judge Rakoff wrote. “But if political journalism is to achieve its constitutionally endorsed role of challenging the powerful, legal redress by a public figure must be limited to those cases where the public figure has a plausible factual basis for complaining that the mistake was made maliciously.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for The Times said: “Judge Rakoff’s opinion is an important reminder of the country’s deep commitment to a free press and the important role that journalism plays in our democracy. We regret the errors we made in the editorial. But we were pleased to see that the court acknowledged the importance of the prompt correction we made once we learned of the mistakes.”
Lawyers for Ms. Palin did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.