Clark Hill’s Damon Dunn Successfully Defends Chicago Reporter in Defamation Case
Damon Dunn successfully represented Chicago Public Media in a defamation case against the Chicago Sun-Times and one of its columnists.
Three plaintiffs of Polish heritage filed the defamation claims after the Sun-Times published a 2021 article criticizing recent efforts in Poland to censor or criminalize publications that associated Poland with the Holocaust. Plaintiffs alleged the article implicated them and Poles generally as participating in anti-Semitic atrocities.
Dunn argued to the Illinois First District Appellate Court and Cook County Circuit Court that the plaintiffs were not named in the column and could neither sue on their own behalf nor on behalf of a group they were associated with ethnically, politically, or otherwise.
“The article does not mention them anywhere,” the court wrote of the plaintiffs in its opinion. “Unlike the cited cases dealing with publications referring to a very small discrete group of persons, the article refers in general terms to an entire nation of millions of people. Therefore, plaintiffs did not state a valid defamation per se claim under Illinois law.”
Dunn said that the court’s concluding observation that “tort claims so grounded would undoubtedly be barred . . . by the First Amendment” bolsters freedom of the press and expression beyond protections afforded by Illinois law. “We argued for including constitutional grounds because these cases appear to be trending and courts should not be adjudicating historical commentary at all,” Dunn said. “That was the author’s point, nations and their governments should face up to history and not intervene when researchers and commentators take an unpopular stance.”
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