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December 28, 2004

Maag attorney Rex Carr's Green v. Alton Telegraph libel verdict

A number of stories on the Gordon Maag lawsuit (Dec. 24; Dec. 23; OL Dec. 23 and links therein) have mentioned Maag's lawyer, Rex Carr, and his then-record-setting $9 million libel judgment against the Alton Telegraph in the early 1980s. It's worth noting that this case, Green v. Alton Telegraph is an example of the abuses of Madison County.

In 1969, the Alton Telegraph, attempting to verify a story, sent a memo to the Justice Department asking if a local builder, James C. Green, had ties to organized crime. The story never ended up in print.

In 1976, the Justice Department sent the memo to the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which had underwritten a loan to Green. The Board sent the memo on to a local bank; the bank cut off Green's credit.

Green (and Carr) sued the newspaper over the unpublished memo. A jury awarded $9 million. The newspaper could not appeal unless it posted a $10 million bond, and instead declared bankruptcy, eventually settling for slightly more than its insurance limits. The decisions of the Madison County trial court to let the case proceed on these tenuous circumstances and the judgment stand could not be appealed. Under the new owners, the Alton Telegraph avoided controversial stories. (Lyle Denniston, "Press Watch," Washington Journalism Review, (March 1982), p. 52; Kevin McDermott, "Appeal bonds are focus of hearing", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 27; Anthony Lewis, 1983 Colby College Convocation Address.)

Madison County judges appear to be recusing themselves from Maag's case, and the case will likely be heard by an out-of-county judge. (Georgina Gustin, "Madison County court will seek to move Maag suit", St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Dec. 23; Brian Brueggemann, "Outsider requested to hear Maag case", Belleville News-Democrat, Dec. 28.)

And the Madison County Record reports that Judge Maag isn't the only plaintiff Maag. Judge Gordon Maag's son, Thomas, is suing Steve Tomaszewski for trespassing to put campaign signs on his property. Worse, Tomaszewski allegedly issued press releases to newspapers denying that the property was Maag's--so Maag is suing for slander of title, as well. ("Legally blonde", Madison County Record, Dec. 26). The younger Maag (see Overlawyered Oct. 29) is an attorney with the Lakin Law Firm, which Overlawyered has covered Jul. 12, 2003. Lest anyone think the Madison County Record is a lapdog of the tort reform movement, it has also recently published a glowing puff piece about Mr. Carr. (Steve Gonzalez, "Rex Carr: champion of victims", Madison County Record, Dec. 22).

Posted by Ted Frank at 07:03 AM | TrackBack (0)




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