Law Schools

Do Footnoted Allegations of Vegetarian Bias Amount to Defamation? Suit Targets Law Review Article

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A law professor who wrote a law review article on gender-stereotyping theory has been sued for alleged defamation over a footnoted case study he used involving a claim of vegetarian bias.

The defendant, employment law professor Zachary Kramer, is now associate dean for intellectual life at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. His article (PDF), published in the Washington University Law Review, highlights a suit accusing bank executive Robert Catalanello of discriminating against an employee because he was a vegetarian.

Catalanello sued Kramer in a complaint (PDF) filed Dec. 28 in New Jersey federal court, Courthouse News Service reports. The suit claims Kramer defamed Catalanello and invaded his privacy in the article and in a lecture. Also named as defendants are the Washington University School of Law and Western New England University School of Law, where Kramer gave the lecture.

The allegations against Catalanello aren’t new. The New York Post published news of fired employee Ryan Pacifico’s lawsuit against Catalanello in a 2009 article that began, “A Long Island man says his ex-boss is a real beef jerky who fired him after deeming his vegetarianism to be ‘gay.’ “

Kramer’s law review article states in the initial pages that the allegations against Catalanello are made in an ongoing lawsuit. Thirteen pages later, the article discusses the case filed against Catalanello, with frequent footnotes to pages of the suit. The following quote from the law review article, for example, included five footnotes to the suit:

“Though things started out great for Pacifico at Calyon, his job took a turn for the worse when his supervisor, Robert Catalanello, learned that Pacifico was a vegetarian. From then on Catalanello subjected Pacifico to a steady barrage of taunts, insults, and demeaning antics. The bulk of the harassment aimed to belittle Pacifico by equating vegetarianism with homosexuality. He called Pacifico ‘gay,’ ‘homo; and ‘vegetarian homo.’ He scheduled business meals at steakhouses and burger joints so Pacifico would not be able to eat anything.”

A spokesperson for the Washington University School of Law said the school had not been served with the suit and declined further comment. Kramer and the Western New England University School of Law did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Updated at 7:20 a.m. to include comment from Washington University spokesperson.

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