ILNews

Paper wants judge to set aside libel verdict

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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A Terre Haute newspaper is asking the judge who presided over a libel trial against the paper to set aside the $1.5 million jury verdict. The Tribune-Star Publishing Company Inc., which produces the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, filed its 39-page brief to support a motion to correct errors Aug. 22 in Sullivan Circuit Court.

In July, a jury awarded Clay County Sheriff's Deputy Jeff Maynard $500,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages in his defamation suit against the newspaper, Jeff Maynard v. Tribune-Star Publishing Company Inc., No. 77C01-0407-CT-219. Maynard filed the suit in response to articles published in the Tribune-Star in 2004 regarding sworn allegations of misconduct by the officer after a traffic stop. The allegations were eventually found to be false, which the Tribune-Star also reported on; that story is not included in Maynard's defamation suit.

In its motion to correct errors, the Tribune-Star says there was not "clear and convincing evidence" the articles written about the allegations against Maynard were published with actual malice, and the articles "accurately and neutrally reported the allegations of police misconduct and the ensuing investigation."

Even if there was evidence of constitutional actual malice and other elements of defamation, the paper argues the jury's damage award was excessive and violates the due process clause of the 14th Amendment.

The paper claims its coverage of the allegations against Maynard is protected by the doctrine of neutral reportage, as applied in Indiana in Woods v. Evansville Press Co. Inc., 791 F.2d 480, 488 (7th Cir. 1986), which addressed the media's right to publish stories about ongoing investigations or allegations made about public officials or figures.

Affirmation of the verdict will have a chilling effect on citizens and newspapers to make or report allegations of misconduct of public officials or criminal investigations out of fear they may be subject to a defamation suit, the brief states.
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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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