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Law Professor Sues "Above the Law"

The National Law Journal reports that a University of Miami law prof. has sued the popular Above The Law blog for false light and invasion of privacy.

Professor Donald Jones was arrested on Aug. 22, 2007 by Miami police for allegedly attempting to offer an undercover officer $20 for sex. Jones protested his innocence, claiming he got lost in the wrong part of Miami, and the charge was eventually dropped. But someone tipped off Above The Law, which posted the police report and noted that Jones had written a book called Race, Sex, and Suspicion: The Myth of the Black Male. The post also (in the words of the NLJ) "poked fun at Prof. Jones for driving a Mercedes but allegedly offering only $20 for sex."

On Oct. 25, 2007 ATL noted that The Miami Herald had reported on Jones' arrest. On Oct. 29, 2007 ATL published a photographic collage submitted by someone claiming to be a University of Miami law student, showing Jones apparently soliciting prostitutes outside a Miami market. ATL's editor referred to the collage as "irreverent, crass, and politically incorrect humor" and noted, "We acknowledge that he merely stands accused of wrongdoing; he hasn't been convicted of anything."

Jones accuses ATL of racism, and has sued ATL for portraying him in a false light, invading his privacy and violating the university's copyright on his faculty photo. He seeks $22 million in damages.

The jibe about avarice comes close to defamation (not sued for, according to the NLJ article). As for the rest, the collage seems to be the most problematic issue from ATL's perspective (if the university owns the copyright to Jones' photo, how can Jones attempt to enforce it? and where is the racism, anyway?). The "humor" tag given to the collage seems meant to obtain constitutional cover for it, as was given to Larry Flynt in his successful defense against an intentional infliction of emotional distress suit by Jerry Falwell after Hustler magazine "humorously" accused him of incest with his mother. Florida apparently has a SLAPP suit statute, and it will be interesting to see if ATL attempts to avail itself of it.

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Katherine Lazarski
Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.