Trials & Litigation

Federal judge says acquitted attorney can sue Above the Law for defamation, but not Gawker

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A federal judge in Chicago has given a green light to a defamation and invasion of privacy suit by an Illinois attorney against the Above the Law.

At issue is the blog’s coverage of a criminal trial at which Meanith Huon was acquitted of an alleged aggravated assault against a woman who responded to a Craigslist ad seeking promotional models, Courthouse News reports, as well as another ATL post a year later that implied Huon had previously faced similar charges in other cases.

In fact, no additional cases existed, said U.S. District Judge John Tharp Jr. in his written opinion (PDF). Hence, a subsequent ATL article suggesting that “Huon posed as a promotions supervisor in order to meet women on an occasion prior to his interactions with Jane Doe” was inaccurate, the judge explained.

“Since the [ATL article] section is erroneously presented as chronicling events unconnected to the Jane Doe incident, it is not a ‘substantially correct account’ of an official proceeding and the statements within it are not protected by the fair report privilege,” Tharp wrote. He also found that material about which Huon complained in his suit constituted defamation per se.

However, Tharp dismissed other causes of action asserted by Huon against ATL, the Courthouse News article reports.

The judge additionally ruled that Huon’s effort to sue Gawker Media over text and comments in a related Jezebel post (Gawker owns Jezebel) did not establish a viable cause of action. That’s because the material was “reasonably capable of an innocent construction,” Tharp said.

Above the Law did not respond to a Monday phone message from the ABA Journal seeking comment.

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