449 U.S. 966 (1980)

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LORAIN JOURNAL CO. v. MILKOVICH , 449 U.S. 966 (1980)

449 U.S. 966

LORAIN JOURNAL COMPANY, The News-Herald and J. Theodore Diadiun v. Michael MILKOVICH
No. 80-100 Supreme Court of the United States November 3, 1980

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of Ohio, Lake County.

The motion of Beacon Journal Publishing Company et al. for leave to file a brief as amici curiae is granted. The motion of Ohio Newspapers Association for leave to file a brief as amicus curiae is granted.

The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

This petition for certiorari raises an important question concerning limitations on the authority of trial courts to grant dismissals, summary judgments, or judgments notwithstanding the verdict 1 in favor of media defendants in libel actions, based on the qualified privilege outlined in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 ( 1964).

On January 8, 1975, the News-Herald of Willoughby, Ohio, published a column by sportswriter Ted Diadium criticizing respondent Michael Milkovich, a wrestling coash at Maple Heights High Schoo, who is treated as a 'public figure' for purposes of this case. Headlined "Maple beat the law with the 'big lie,' " the column accused Milkovich of lying about a fracas that occurred during one of his team's wrestling matches.

On February 9, 1974, the Maple High School wrestling team, coached by Milkovich, faced a team from Mentor High School. A brawl involving both wrestlers and spectators erupted after a controversial ruling by a referee . Several wrestlers were injured. The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) subsequently conducted a hearing into the occurrence, censured Milkovich for his conduct at the match,

Page 449 U.S. 966 , 967

placed his team on probation for the school year, and declared the team ineligible to compete in the state wrestling tournament. Diadiun attended and reported on both the match and the hearing, at which Milkovich had defended his behavior. Thereafter, a group of parents and high school wrestlers filed suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, claiming that the OHSAA had denied the team due process. Milkovich, not a party to that lawsuit, appeared as a witness for the plaintiffs. On January 7, 1975, the court held that due process had been denied, and enjoined the team's suspension. Barrett v. Ohio High School Athletic Assn., No. 74CV-09-3390. 2

Justice STEWART would deny this petition for want of a final judgment.

Diadiun did not attend the court hearing, review the transcript, or read the court's opinion, but he wrote a column about the decision based on his own recollection of the wrestling match and ensuing OHSAA hearing and on a description of the court proceeding given him by an OHSAA Commissioner. In the column, Diadiun stated that Milkovich and others had " misrepresented" the occurrences at the OHSAA hearing, and that Milkovich's testimony "had enough contradictions and obvious untruths so that the six board members were able to see through it." Diadiun went on to say, however, that at the later court hearing Milkovich and a fellow witness " apparently had their version of the incident polished and reconstructed, and the judge apparently believed them." Diadiun concluded that anyone who had attended the match "knows in his heart that Milkovich . . . lied at the hearing after . . . having given his solemn oath to tell the truth. But [he] got away with it."

Milkovich filed a libel action in state court against petitioners Diadiun, the News-Herald, and the latter's parent [449 U.S. 966 , 968]

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