A judge this month dismissed a lawsuit brought by a former St. Cloud StateUniversity dean who sued the student newspaper after it published comments thatsuggested he was anti-Semitic and a racist.
The court ruled thatalthough the comments were admittedly wrong, Richard D. Lewis, former dean ofSt. Cloud State’s College of Social Sciences, is a public figure and hedid not prove the newspaper published the comments knowing they were incorrect,which the “actual malice” legal standard requires.
In October 2003, thenewspaper published an article that included an interview with Robbi Hoy, aformer student involved in a previous dispute with Lewis, who claimed sheoverheard Lewis making racial and derogatory comments.
Afterpublication, Hoy told the Chronicle reporter that the remarks she heardcame from another professor, not Lewis. The newspaper published a retraction inNovember 2003, but Lewis continued the libel lawsuit.
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SPLCView: The student newspaper staff in this case will be the first to admitthey feel awful they got the story wrong. But the judge recognized — asthe Supreme Court did in its 1964 Times v. Sullivan case — that ifwe truly value a free press we must give it “breathing room” to operate and nothold it financially liable for every mistake.
Case: Lewis v.University Chronicle, No. CX-05-5539 (Minn. Dist. Ct. Stearns Co. Oct. 24,2006)