Federal appeals court reinstates libel suit against New York Times over book review
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington (D.C. Cir.) in mid-February reinstated a libel suit brought by an investigative book author following a negative review in the New York Times Book Review.
The author, Dan Moldea, sued the Times for libel in U.S. District Court in Washington in August 1990, over a September 1989 review of his book Interference: How Organized Crime Influences Professional Football.
The review, by Times sportswriter Gerald Eskenazi, contended that there was “too much sloppy journalism to trust the bulk of this book’s 512 pages,” and offered several examples in support of that point.
In January 1992 the district court awarded the Times summary judgment on the grounds that statements in the review were either nonverifiable opinion or supported statements of fact.
In late February, the Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Moldea could proceed with his suit because the Times “attack[ed] Moldea’s competence as a practitioner of his chosen profession.” The court found that a jury could determine whether some of the review’s characterizations were true or false.
In dissent, Chief Judge Abner Mikva maintained that the review contained protected opinion and accurate facts. Mikva warned that the majority’s opinion could “significantly affect the freedom with which reviewers go about their jobs.”
(Moldea v. New York Times Co.; Media Counsel: Bruce Sanford, Washington)