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LIBERTY LOBBY, INC. v. REES

October 3, 1986

Liberty Lobby, Inc., Plaintiff
v.
John Rees, Sheila Louise Rees and The Information Digest, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: REVERCOMB

 George H. Revercomb, Judge

 This matter is before the Court on defendants' motion for summary judgment and the plaintiff's opposition thereto. Oral argument was heard July 21, 1986.

 This is a defamation action, commenced on November 14, 1984 by plaintiff, a not-for-profit corporation and self-described "citizens' lobby".

 The plaintiff filed this diversity libel action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that various statements in each of two articles published by the defendants were defamatory.

 Named as defendants were John Rees, publisher and editor of Information Digest, Sheila Louise Rees, an editorial assistant and writer for Information Digest and Information Digest itself, a bi-weekly magazine published in Baltimore, Maryland. Information Digest is distributed to many newspapers and magazines throughout the country and to various law enforcement agencies including police departments and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

 The alleged defamation of which plaintiff complains appeared in two separate issues of Information Digest -- March 30, 1984, and March 8, 1985, (hereinafter "the 1984 article" and "the 1985 article" respectively).

 The 1984 article was entitled "The LaRouche Apparatus in the U.S." and it dealt with Lyndon LaRouche and various organizations allegedly operated by LaRouche. The article portrayed LaRouche as "espousing Marxist, communist, extremist, paranoid, anti-semitic, revolutionary views" (Plaintiff's Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint p.3) and then, plaintiff alleges, "promulgates the false assertion that Liberty Lobby, Inc. and LaRouche are closely linked and allied, and even that some of LaRouche's more unsavory alleged activities were set in motion as a result of an arrangement with Liberty Lobby."

 Thus plaintiff alleges the article damages it "through the technique of guilt by association" and that defendants "falsely imply that all evils they attribute to LaRouche are tolerated by, shared by and to some extent caused by Liberty Lobby." The overall effect of the article, plaintiff concludes, is "untruthfully to place Liberty Lobby among what the article characterizes as disreputable company."

 The 1984 article, plaintiff contends, is further defamatory in that it characterizes plaintiff as "race-hating, anti-semitic, totalitarian (and) of the National Socialist model." (Second Amended and Supplemental Complaint p.6) These alleged libels of Liberty Lobby were also raised in the context of the relationship between Lyndon LaRouche and Liberty Lobby.

 The 1985 article, entitled "The Populist Party", according to plaintiff, also imposes liability for defamation in that it too characterizes Liberty Lobby as racialistic, anti-semitic and neo-nazi and further asserts the existence of a long-term relationship between Liberty Lobby and LaRouche.

 The plaintiff's status in a defamation action has previously been litigated by the Courts in this Circuit. *fn1" There is nothing in the record in this case to suggest the status of plaintiff has changed. Plaintiff has had "a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue of its public figure status. See Blonder-Tongue Laboratories, Inc. v. University of Illinois Foundation, 402 U.S. 313, 329, 28 L. Ed. 2d 788, 91 S. Ct. 1434 (1971). In this case plaintiff is a public figure for defamation action purposes. *fn2"

 In this most recent term the United States Supreme Court held in Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, 477 U.S. 242, 106 S. Ct. 2505, 91 L. Ed. 2d 202 (1986) that a court, in ruling on a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, must apply the clear-and-convincing evidence standard. The Supreme Court in Anderson promulgated the following test for this Court to apply:

 
When determining if a genuine factual issue as to actual malice exists in a libel suit brought by a public figure, a trial judge must bear in mind the actual quantum and quality of proof necessary to support liability under New York Times. For example, there is no genuine issue if the evidence presented in the opposing affidavits is of insufficient caliber or ...

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