How do I avoid Nuisance Litigation?

I have a tenured professor at my school who is unlike any teaching professional I’ve ever met. His illustrious history includes being fired from an Ivy League school (and they suing them), being denied a fellowship at another school (and then suing them!) and being fired from a very prominant museum. He is well known for his love for nuisance litigation (he’s never won a court case). He is also currently suing my school (because they released a statement to the press a few years ago that refered to his work as hateful and racist).

I would like to bring attention to this individual and what he has done/is doing. I would like to do this in a straightforward honest manner, but I am concerned that even if I simply publish documented facts, he could still sue me and make my life complicated.

IAANOYAATDLAOTSDB ( I am aware none of you are able to dispense legal advice on the straight dope board) but perhaps you can tell me what if anything I could do to minimize the chance that I get sued for simply archiving published memos, public statements etc that would bring attention to a racist hateful teacher (who still gave me an A in his course I might add).


Truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

Perhaps you could disinvolve yourself? Find local media to present the story, furnishing them with the memos and such.

That was what I was gonna suggest. Pick a cooler nick than “deep throat”, however. What field is he in, just outa curiousity?

He is a historian by trade.

That woulda been my guess. Why do historians cause all the ruckus?

I was threatened with a defamation action from a character similar to the one you describe a number of years ago. What was significant about my case was that for various reasons it could have been heard in any one of half a dozen jurisdictions, including the US. There was a very weak case for having the case heard in the UK, but he nonetheless chose to pursue it here because the UK legal system is a soft touch on defamation cases. In the event, he was seen off with a couple of solicitor’s letters, but the lesson I came away with is that, outside the UK (and especially in the US), it is next to impossible to win a defamation case unless you are indisputably in the right, and even then it’s a struggle. One strongly worded letter from a credible lawyer should rid you of the problem.

The big problem about sueing and being sued is the cost. So take out legal insurance (it may be offered as an extra on your house insurance) and if he sues, say, “That’s okay, I’ve got insurance for the costs, see you in court”. This has worked a number of times for a friend of mine: each time the other party backed down.

Hmmm. Mebbe cuz they like to talk about “facts”, but they don’t have any reproducible results?

I mean, a chemist can get some internal satisfaction by publishing the freezing point of some molecule. She can reproduce her procedure mebbe five times, publish the results, and then wait to see if someone shows her conflicting results.

Even then, some scientists are a bit prickly. Still, it’s hard to debate what the freezing point of water is, unless you get down to the atomic level, at which point it’s (mostly) speculation and room for more research.

On the other hand, history is incredibly open to interpretation, but it’s also the refuge of people who love facts. I’ve been studying history since I was a kid, and yet the more I learn the more questions I have.

The questions are the important stuff, IMHO; they make us think about our current actions and mebbe help us adjust our behavior. Yet many historians are more interested in proving their pet theory. I see this as a desperate, unfulfilled need to be right and have everyone else wrong.

If you think historians are bad about arguments, you should see scientists posturing outside of their area of study. William Shockley comes to mind immediately.

No it isn’t. At least, not in every jurisdiction. Canada is pretty (in)famous for not allowing truth as a defence in libel or defamation cases. ISTR cases where a public figure was “outed” as being gay, and even though said public figure was indeed gay, and all the allegedly defamatory remarks were true, the public figure brought suit and was successful. The legal argument was something along the lines of the public figure, while not actively concealing or denying his homosexuality, did not openly publicize it either. Publically outing this person harmed him as he became the target of homophobic ridicule.

My apologies. In the U.S., as far as I’m aware, truth is an absolute defense to slander or libel. [sub]And that’s one reason of many that you shouldn’t take legal advice from a message board[/sub]

Basically true, in the US.

But that won’t help the OP’s question: how to avoid being sued.
Anybody can sue you for just about anything. Truth as an absolute defense means that you should win the case in court (if it’s true, and you have evidence to prove it).

But you will still have the cost of defending a lawsuit in court, and that’s what the OP wants to avoid.


True, but in the hypothetical case that you outed someone without their consent, they could sue you for something other than slander or libel. IANAL, but it seems to me that they might argue that you invaded their privacy.

True, but if you do this often enough for frivolous or vexatious reasons, then in many jursdictions you will be added to a blacklist of barrators, which will prevent you from bringing further suits in that jursdiction. So one way to avoid being sued is to publicize this type of information only against registered barrators.

Please explain how this will protect against tort or defamation nuisance suits.

Presumably that poster’s argument was that you could incorporate a company and then publish all possibly defamatory materials as the corporation rather than personally as an individual. You personally are then protected against defamation suits, since you didn’t personally defame anyone; the corporation did. Furthermore your liability for damages would be limited to the corporation’s assets, not your personal assets. So this tactic doesn’t really prevent lawsuits, but it does prevent lawsuits against you personally, and may eliminate your liability for damages.

I would have picked English. My brother, who has worked at a half dozen or so universities, claims that English departments are the masters of internal dissent and bickering. As he sees it, every college prof feels a need (career driven) to be at the forefront of something. Since it is difficult to be seen (at least by the public at large) to be leading the field as in the sciences (how often have you heard the term ‘cutting edge of English’?) they fall back on an attack mode. Historians at least have a publishing outlet–and a chance of a mainstream one at that.

Thanks, couldn’t of said it better myself.

:smack: have, have, have
Damnable speech impediment.

Wouldn’t work – the corporate veil would bed pierced.