Former dean sues student newspaper for libel

MINNESOTA — A former St. Cloud State University dean has sued the school’s student newspaper for libel and defamation after a claim against the school was dismissed last year.

Former dean Richard Lewis filed suit in Stearns County District Court last month against the University Chronicle. Lewis is currently a history professor at the university.

University Chronicle attorney Mark Anfinson said he did not know what Lewis had to gain from the suit. Anfinson said the newspaper holds no libel insurance and does not possess a large advertising budget.

“[The damages] are very negligible in a case like this,” Anfinson said.

Lewis’ attorney, Marshall Tanick, said his client wants “vindication for his reputation.”

The Chronicle published an article on Oct. 23, 2003 quoting a former student who accused Lewis of anti-Semitism, racial slurs and obstruction of free speech.

Editors retracted the article on Nov. 20, 2003. The correction said the article “contained serious errors.”

The Chronicle hereby unconditionally retracts the suggestion contained in the article that Dr. Lewis is anti-Semitic….The newspaper regrets the errors and apologizes to Dr. Lewis,” an excerpt from the correction read.

Tanick said the retraction was “unsuccessful” in restoring Lewis’ reputation.

Lewis did not return calls for comment yesterday.

Lewis filed suit in a district court in Ramsey County on March 11, 2004 against the university. The suit described the Chronicle as an agent of the school, making St. Cloud State liable for its actions.

A Ramsey County district court judge dismissed Lewis’ lawsuit ruling that the university cannot be held liable for the newspaper because it does not hold or exercise editorial control over the newspaper.

The suit was dismissed in the lower courts. The appeals court affirmed the lower court decision on March 22. The Minnesota Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal in June.

by Kyle McCarthy, SPLC staff writer

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