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Libel-“Actual Malice”


Libel-“Actual Malice”


7th Circuit Court of Appeals

Case Name: National Police Association, Inc. v. Gannett Co., Inc.

Case No.: 22-1639

Officials: Wood, Jackson-Akiwumi, and Lee, Circuit Judges.

Focus: Libel-“Actual Malice”

The National Police Association (NPA), a nonprofit entity, defines its objective as “educating supporters of law enforcement on how to assist police departments in achieving their objectives.” During 2018-2019, a number of police departments across the nation expressed concerns about donation request mailers dispatched by the NPA to residents. These solicitations were labeled as misleading. The Indianapolis Star and the Associated Press produced articles that highlighted these alerts from police departments. These articles questioned whether the funds collected by the NPA were actually being directed towards police departments.

Legal representatives representing the NPA forwarded a letter to the publisher and the general counsel of the Associated Press. This letter served as a notification under Indiana Code 34-15-4-2, stating that the NPA considered the articles to be defamatory and had intentions to file a lawsuit. The letter requested both a retraction of the statements and the removal of public access to online versions of the articles. Following this, the NPA initiated a legal proceeding against the publishers, making claims of libel.

However, the district court dismissed the case, asserting that the NPA had failed to allege “actual malice” in their claims. “Actual malice” refers to a situation where publishers are aware of the inaccuracy or possess significant doubts regarding the accuracy of the content when it was initially published.

The Seventh Circuit upheld this decision, rejecting an inventive interpretation of Restatement (Second) Torts 577(2) that would impose an obligation on internet publishers to erase previously published defamatory material. The court chose not to submit questions to the Indiana Supreme Court to verify whether such an obligation existed in the state. The court found that the asserted obligation lacked established legal basis.


Decided 08/31/23

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