In mid-December a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va. denied a request from Paladin Press to reconsider the mid-November decision of a three-judge panel of the court in Rice v. Paladin. The panel decided that Paladin was not protected by the First Amendment from a lawsuit concerning the wrongful deaths of three people killed by a man who had read Hit Man: A Technical Manual for Independent Contractors, which Paladin published.
Seth Berlin, an attorney for Paladin, said the publisher plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to consider overturning the appeals court’s decision. (Rice v. Paladin; Media Counsel: Lee Levine, Washington)
In late December a federal district court in Oklahoma City dismissed a suit filed by a Seattle journalist against a Moore, Okla., radio station. Employees of KRXO-FM urged listeners to call Kenneth Zeran and “voice their opinion” about an ad that appeared on the America Online computer service. The ad offered T-shirts with slogans related to the Oklahoma City bombing and listed Zeran’s telephone number.
The ad turned out to be a hoax, and Zeran filed separate suits against the radio station and the computer service. A federal district court in Alexandria, Va., dismissed Zeran’s suit against AOL, and in mid-November a federal appeals court in Richmond, Va., upheld the lower court’s decision.
In response to Zeran’s suit against KRXO, Judge Ralph Thompson ruled that Zeran failed to prove that his “level of distress was sufficiently severe to make it actionable as a matter of law.” (Zeran v. Diamond Broadcasting; Media Counsel: Jon Epstein, Oklahoma City)
In late December a failed candidate for the Minnesota state senate filed a libel suit against the state’s largest daily newspaper. John Derus, who lost a September 1996 primary election by 104 votes, claimed that the Minneapolis Star Tribune cost him the election when, on the day of the election, it ran his picture next to a story on charity fraud.
Derus previously had sued the newspaper under Minnesota law in an attempt to force it to pay for a new election, but the state Supreme Court dismissed his complaint in October 1996. The former candidate also tried without success to persuade the Minnesota Senate Election Laws Committee to order a new election.
“Mr. Derus has tried twice to assert claims involving this mistake,” Randy Lebedoff, the newspaper’s lawyer, told the Associated Press. “Each time he was unsuccessful. We believe that this suit, too, is without merit.” (Derus v. Cowles Media Co.; Media Counsel: Randy Lebedoff, Minneapolis)