ILNews

COA rules against former Junior Achievement boss in defamation suit

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed that a central Indiana organization and its president did not defame the former president of Junior Achievement of Central Indiana or tortiously interfere with a business relationship.

Jeffrey Miller and his wife, Cynthia, sued numerous parties in March 2010, including the Central Indiana Community Foundation Inc. and Brian Payne. Miller argued in part that Payne defamed him and caused him to not be offered a job with the city of Indianapolis.

The allegations are based on conversation Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s former chief-of staff, Chris Cotterill, had with Payne March 9, 2010, at a meeting about the Indianapolis Cultural Trail. Cotterill had been in discussions with Miller about any potential jobs in the city’s office, but nothing had been offered.

Cotterill wanted to speak with Payne to confirm information his wife told him about the Junior Achievement of Central Indiana being the subject of an audit. Miller served as president of JACI from 1994 until he retired in 2008. He also served as president of JACI’s foundation, known as Experiential Learning and Entrepreneurship Federation until February 2010.

The construction of an Ivy Tech culinary project initiated during Miller’s time as JACI president came to a halt in early 2010 after the Glick Fund at Central Indiana Community Foundation, stopped paying on a $2 million grant, pending an audit.

During the brief March 2010 discussion, Payne confirmed to Cotterill that CICF was in the process of auditing JACI due to the Glicks’ concerns of money being spent in ways not consistent with the terms of the grant, misappropriation of funds, or money moving around in an improper manner. Cotterill, however, testified during his deposition that Payne never told him that Miller was the one who may have misappropriated funds or moved money around improperly.

At the time of this conversation, there was an audit ongoing, so the statements were true. There is no evidence that Payne made any comments regarding Miller that could be considered defamatory or that Payne invaded Miller’s privacy by placing him in a false light, the appeals court held in Jeffrey M. Miller and Cynthia S. Miller v. Central Indiana Community Foundation, Inc., and Brian Payne, 49A04-1309-PL-451.

The designated evidence also shows that Payne did not commit any unjustified interference with an alleged business relationship between the city of Indianapolis and Miller. Payne did not seek out Cotterill; it was Cotterrill who wanted to verify the information his wife had told him. Also, Cotterill had concerns prior to learning of the audit that Miller was telling people that he would be working for the mayor before any employment offer had been extended. No offer was ever made.

The Millers have sued 17 parties over comments – both spoken and written – that they claim are defamatory. In April, the Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment for Federal Express Corp. and the 500 Festival Inc.

Some of those comments come from anonymous commenters on news websites and message boards.  The action involving those defendants was an issue of first impression for the courts.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

ADVERTISEMENT