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Supreme Court denies review of libel suit against author, publisher

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From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 19.

From the Spring 2001 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 19.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Jan. 8 declined to review the dismissal of a libel lawsuit brought by a Washington lobbyist against an author and her publisher.

A federal appeals court dismissed the suit in August 2000. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston (1st Cir.) ruled that three disputed statements by Susan Trento in her book, “The Power House,” about lobbyist Robert Keith Gray were opinion. (See NM&L, Fall 2000)

Trento reported that an unnamed executive with Gray’s firm alleged that Gray’s access to President Reagan and others was often “faked.” She wrote that other lobbyists claimed Gray’s firm failed because it offered little substance, and reported that a CIA source suggested that CIA Director William Casey asked Gray to take on controversial clients to spy on them. The court found that Trento was speculating as to why Gray took on controversial clients and such speculation was opinion.

The court ruled that two other quotes from a former vice president of Gray’s firm, who said there was “a degree of venality” on Gray’s part and “an awful lot . . . of overcharging,” lacked actual malice. — DB