When Does Legal Commentary Cross the Line to Defamation?

by DonaldScarinci@yahoo.com on January 21, 2013 · 0 comments

in Ethics,Legal News and Trends,social media for lawyers

Lawyers, law professors, and others in the legal community are increasingly using legal blogs and other Internet platforms to comment on groundbreaking or otherwise interesting legal developments. However, as a recent defamation lawsuit highlights, writers always run the risk of becoming a topic of legal commentary themselves.

Zachary Kramer, an associate dean at Arizona State University Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law, is facing allegations of defamation and invasion of privacy in connection with his 2011 law review article, entitled “Of Meat and Manhood.” It explores an employment discrimination case against New Jersey businessman Robert Catalanello. Catalanello, unhappy about how he was portrayed in the article, filed suit against Kramer along with Washington University in St. Louis School of Law, which sponsors the law journal, and Western New England University School of Law, where Kramer discussed the article.

As detailed by the New Jersey Law Journal, Kramer’s article examined the discrimination claims lodged against Catalanello in a 2009 complaint. A male employee alleged that Catalanello made a series of derogatory comments associating the employee’s vegetarianism with homosexuality. The law article specifically cites the following comment from the complaint: “You don’t even eat steak dude. At what point in time did you realize you were gay?”

In his discussion of the case, Kramer asserts that Catalanello’s comments represent a new type of employment discrimination. “In the case of the male vegetarian, what may look like vegetarian or sexual orientation discrimination is really sex discrimination in the form of gender stereotyping,” he argues.

Meanwhile, Catalanello claims that the statements are untrue. He further alleges that the law review article has not only damaged his reputation, but also lead to “contempt, hatred and ridicule.” He is seeking monetary damages to compensate his “serious and permanent injury.”

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