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[Cite as 838 F.2d 1287 (D.C. Cir. 1988)]

Liberty Lobby, Inc., Appellant v. Dow Jones & Company, Inc., et al.

No. 86-7017.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Court

Argued Dec. 8, 1987.

Decided Feb. 5, 1988

Citizens organization brought libel action against reporter, journalist, and publisher. Motion for summary judgment or judgment on pleadings was filed by publisher, journalist, and reporter. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia, Thomas Penfield Jackson, J., 638 F.Supp. 1149, granted motion, and appeal was taken. The Court of Appeals, Bork, Circuit Judge, held that: (1) statements about organization’s publishing activities were nonactionable as matter of federal constitutional law; (2) discussion of libel trial was protected as accurate reporting on governmental proceedings; and (3) allegedly defamatory statements were protected as opinion.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 84-03455).

Mark Lane, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Robert P. LoBue, New York City, for appellees.

Before EDWARDS, BORK, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge BORK.

Bork, Circuit Judge:

This is a libel action in which Liberty Lobby, Inc., a citizens’ group, seeks fifty million dollars in compensatory and punitive damages from the publisher of The Wall Street Journal. After more than a year of discovery, the district court granted defendants’ motion for summary judgment on the first count, and judgment on the pleadings as to the remaining four counts of Liberty Lobby’s complaint. We affirm the district court’s disposition of the case in all respects, although we sometimes follow a different route to the same result.



This suit epitomizes one of the most troubling aspects of modern libel litigation: the use of the libel complaint as a weapon to harass.[9] Despite the patent insufficiency of a number of appellant’s claims, it has managed to embroil a media defendant in over three years of costly and contentious litigation. The message to this defendant and the press at large is clear: discussion of Liberty Lobby is expensive. However well-documented a story, however unimpeachable a reporter’s source, he or she will have to think twice about publishing where litigation, even to a successful motion for summary judgment, can be very expensive if not crippling.

We have conducted an independent review of the record in this case, and have found that each of appellant’s claims is clearly barred on several common law and constitutional grounds. The district court’s judgment dismissing all of Liberty Lobby’s claims with prejudice is


9. Liberty Lobby has brought a number of libel suits against media defendants that have characterized it as racially prejudiced or anti-Semitic. […] None of these suits has been successful and in no instance has Liberty Lobby been allowed to present its claims to a jury.