Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 4, 2013

Banker Sues Arizona State Law Prof, Wash. U. Law Review, for Defamation in Of Meat and Manhood Article

KramerNew Jersey banker Robert Catalanello has sued Zachary Kramer (Associate Dean for Intellectual Life and Professor of Law, Arizona State) for defamation in his article, Of Meat and Manhood, 89 Wash. U. L. Rev. 287 (2011). Mr. Catalanello also named Washington University School of Law (which published the article) and Western New England University School of Law (which hosted a lecture based on the article).  The article discusses a lawsuit brought by a fired employee who alleged that Mr. Catalanello discriminated against him because of his vegetarianism and perceived homosexuality. The article opens with an alleged quote from Mr. Catalanello from the former employee's complaint:

You don‘t even eat steak dude. At what point in time did you realize you were gay? 

(Hat Tip: Ann Murphy.)

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The text of the Meat and Manhood paper contains the words "alleged", "claimed","charged" and "according to" plenty of times, along with the footnotes citing the complaint. How can defamation possibly be proven in this ummmmm "case"? seems south of cheese to me. Have the commenters here even read the article, or just the out of context charges?

Posted by: IRK | Jan 4, 2013 1:32:07 PM

Jed, I follow you now. I think the author and the editors got very sloppy here.

Posted by: HTA | Jan 4, 2013 9:54:12 AM

Putting aside the public figure issue -- would it be defamatory for a Law Review to state "Barack Obama was not born in the United States and has produced a fraudulent birth certificate," and then, in a footnote, cite a birther lawsuit complaint containing those allegations?

Posted by: Piper | Jan 4, 2013 8:49:00 AM

HTA -- I am just going by the paragraph quoted in the ABA Journal article, but it does not look like the article said "this publicly available complaint said x, y and z." Rather, the text of the article said what was alleged to have happened as if it did, in fact, happen, then there were footnotes to the complaint. I think the Post is generally more careful to say "it is alleged" and "according to the Plaintiff" in its articles, and give the defendant a chance to respond.

Posted by: Jed | Jan 4, 2013 8:08:55 AM

These quotes were well publicized elsewhere: The law review almost certainly cites to the complaint. I can't imagine it's defamation to say, "this publicly available complaint stated 'x, y, & z.'" Does anyone have an informed opinion on this issue?

Posted by: HTA | Jan 4, 2013 7:53:33 AM

I thought that quoting from publicly filed complaints was absolutely privileged against claims of defamation?

Posted by: Express | Jan 4, 2013 7:38:36 AM

Law Reviews and their authors open themselves up to these type of allegations when they report on cases which have been filed, but have not been adjudicated -- or even worse, dismissed -- as if the allegations must have merit. When allegations have not been proven in court, you would think at a minimum the other side should be given an opportunity to say " we deny all the charges. Ben Trachtenberg has an article in the Nebraska Law Review on law school employment statistics goes even further and opines on lawsuits which have been dismissed as if they must have had merit to them. This would seem to open him and the Nebraska Law Review up for similar defamation allegations.

Posted by: Jed | Jan 4, 2013 5:22:12 AM