Court affirms dismissal of libel suit filed against out-of-state defendants
TEXAS — The U.S. Court of Appeals in New Orleans (5th Circuit) ruled in mid-May that a federal court in Texas does not have jurisdiction over two out-of-state defendants in a libel suit brought by a resident of Pennsylvania.
The case arose from a 1991 speech given in Dallas by Thomas Wilson, a Pennsylvania resident who used computer enhancements to support asserted “revelations” about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Wilson claimed that a second gunman was located on the “grassy knoll” and that a well-known photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald had been tampered with.
Seeking comment on these claims, a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald telephoned David Belin in Iowa and Robert Blakey in Indiana, because these men had participated in the government’s investigation of the killing. Belin and Blakey disputed Wilson’s contentions, calling them “garbage” and “lies.”
The U.S. District Court in Dallas dismissed Wilson’s libel suit against Belin and Blakey in September 1993 on the grounds that the court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants.
The appeals court affirmed that decision, noting that Belin and Blakey did not place a call to Texas about a Texas resident, but merely answered a call seeking their opinion about a Pennsylvania man’s theory. The court held that to assert jurisdiction over Blakey and Belin “would deprive them of the due process liberty interest not to be subjected to suit in a distant forum with which they have little connection.”
(Wilson v. Belin; Defendant’s Counsel: Robert Sack, New York; Thomas McGraw, Dallas)