Libel suit against Daily Nebraskan moves forward

NEBRASKA — A $700,000 libel suit against the University ofNebraska at Lincoln’s student newspaper will continue after a state judgedeclined to award summary judgment in the newspaper’s favor.

Former Nebraska Regent Robert Prokop filed a lawsuit against the DailyNebraskan in October 2007, claiming the paper libeled him in an editorialthat ran in October 2006. The editorial, titled “Regents must be held tohigh standards,” accused Prokop of plagiarizing a guest column abouthomosexuality he submitted to the paper in the 1970s.

The Daily Nebraskan requested a summary judgment in the case, butwas denied.

“At the very least, the court finds that genuine issues of materialfact exist regarding the truth or falsity of the statements made in the articlepublished by defendant as well as whether ‘actual malice’exists,” Judge Jodi Nelson wrote in her Aug. 18 ruling.

Dan Shattil, general manager of the Daily Nebraskan, said he is notsure why the judge ruled the way she did. The judge refused to consider severalnewspaper articles submitted as evidence by the Nebraskan because theywere photocopies. Shattil said the newspaper’s attorney is in the processof obtaining affidavits certifying they are actual copies of the originalarticles.

“There’s no evidence that Prokop has come up with proving…that what we had printed was false, much less proving that we have shown actualmalice in the accusations,” Shattil said.

The editorial discussed a Texas Tech University regent who stepped downafter plagiarizing portions of a guest column in the student newspaper. TheNebraskan column compared Prokop to the Texas Tech regent and went on tocall for a broader ethics policy for the Nebraska Board of Regents.

Prokop later lost his election bid, and in 2007 he filed a complaintagainst the newspaper. In the complaint, Prokop claims the newspaper”falsely, maliciously and illegally” printed the editorial and thatit contained “false, scandalous, illegal, defamatory and maliciousstatements.”

When reached Wednesday, Prokop had no comment.

Shattil is confident with the newspaper’s chances in trial.

“If it goes to trial, there’s no way that the DailyNebraskan can lose because there’s no evidence that has come to lightshowing what we printed was false,” Shattil said.

The judge did award summary judgment to Regent Jim McClurg, who Prokopseparately sued for statements McClurg made in a 2006 Omaha World Heraldstory when the two were campaigning for the same Regents seat, according to theLincoln Star Journal.