Minn. Supreme Court declines to hear appeal by professor claiming defamation

MINNESOTA — The Minnesota Supreme Court last week refused to consider an appeal by a St. Cloud State University professor who had sued the university for libel.

The court’s denial of Richard Lewis’ appeal upheld the principle that public colleges and universities that do not make content decisions cannot be held liable for defamatory statements printed in their student newspapers.

The Minnesota State College and University System had a policy in place that said “student-funded publications shall be free of censorship and advance approval of copy, and their editors and managers shall be free to develop their own editorial and news coverage policies.”

Lewis, a professor and former dean at St. Cloud State University, sued the school and the Minnesota State College and University System after the school’s student newspaper, the University Chronicle, ran a story in October 2003 in which a student accused Lewis of being anti-Semitic.

Neither the newspaper nor its staff was named in the lawsuit.

According to the state supreme court’s Web site, the court on June 14 refused to consider the case.

A district court judge dismissed Lewis’ case in June 2004 and the state’s court of appeals in March upheld the dismissal, saying the school was not liable for statements printed in the student newspaper.

— By Sean Hill

CASE: Lewis v. St. Cloud State University et al., 693 N.W. 2d 466 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005).

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