The Court of Appeal for the Second District, Division Four has issued a ruling that appears to clear the path for Reeves Nelson to go to trial against Time Inc., and writer George Dohrmann based upon Sports Illustrated article slamming the UCLA basketball program, in general, and Nelson in particular.
Initially, the courts had ruled that the suit was barred by the anti-SLAPP statute. Nelson appealed.
To overcome the "protections" of the SLAPP statute, Nelson had to present a prima facie case of "malice" or prove that he was not a "public figure" and therefore entitled to a higher standard of protection.
This morning I received the court's 45 page opinion in favor of Nelson. I do not have time to read and analyze it now. However, in skimming it here's what I found:
1. The court ruled that Nelson was a "public figure" and therefore entitled to less protection; this is an interesting ruling because Nelson was a college player and most of the case law deals with professionals; there is some very interesting stuff here which, if I have time, I'll analyze; however, this ruling was not dispositive because,
2. The court found that Nelson made a prima-facie case of malice which entitled him to present his evidence to a jury.
Here's my quick take away: It takes more to libel a public figure. Instead of being negligent, the author had to write with malice. This standard has been hard to prove and it is usually very difficult for public figures to get past "anti-SLAPP" motions. Nelson has prevailed on the second prong -- the court finds enough in the record to lead it to believe that Nelson can make a case of malice sufficient to go to a jury. That is a huge victory for Nelson and, indirectly, for the UCLA program.
I cannot figure out how to post the 45 page opinion to BN. And, it is an "unpublished" opinion.
I do not have the time to fully analyze it this week. I'm back being a student -- EMS -- and hitting the books hard.
I'd love to send it to anyone who wants to go through it and report back.