Plaintiff Loses Libel Appeal Against Above The Law
From today’s First Circuit decision in Mullane v. Breaking Media, Inc.:
[W]e conclude that the district court did not err when it granted the Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss based on the application of the Massachusetts fair report privilege and First Amendment principles. To the extent Mullane intended also to challenge the district court’s personal-jurisdiction-based dismissal of the claims asserted against other defendants, Mullane has failed with his brief to develop any challenge to that ruling.
Here’s an excerpt from the District Court decision that was affirmed:
Plaintiff, Jonathan Mullane, a former student of the University of Miami Law School, brings this action against Breaking Media, Inc., and journalist Elie Mystal alleging that an article on the legal website “Above the Law” was defamatory….
Mullane was a student at the University of Miami School of Law beginning in the fall of 2017. During the spring of 2018, Mullane served as a legal intern with the United States Attorney’s Office (“USAO”) in the Southern District of Florida.
While employed with the USAO, Mullane was party to a pro se civil lawsuit involving a credit card dispute pending before Judge Federico Moreno in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. In April 2018, Mullane entered Judge Moreno’s chambers, allegedly to request that the clerk make an entry of default in connection with this personal civil dispute.
Judge Moreno subsequently summoned Mullane to a hearing on April 10, 2018. During the hearing, Mullane appeared to acknowledge that he had sought to file a writ of mandamus in his pending case. See Docket No. 57-1 at 13:14-18 (“THE COURT: Did you mention the word petition for mandamus? … MR. MULLANE: I did.”); id. at 25:17-19 (“THE COURT: What was the question? MR. MULLANE: I can’t remember exactly. It was about how to file the mandamus request or something.”). But see id. at 7:19-20 (“MR. MULLANE: I said that I had a specific question about the entry of default.”). Judge Moreno reprimanded Mullane for his actions. Mullane was terminated from his internship at the USAO soon after the hearing…..
On April 30, 2018, the legal news publication “Above the Law” published an article, titled “Judge Detonates Pro Se Law Student So Hard I Now Must Defend a Dumb Kid.” The Article was authored by Mystal, the Executive Editor of “Above the Law.” …
The Article describes the April 10, 2018 hearing. It states, [among other things]:
“[Mullane] was trying to file a petition of mandamus—which basically asks an appellate court to order Judge Moreno to work on his case faster. That’s pretty rude. He didn’t know where to file the petition, and ended up asking the judge’s career clerk, in the judge’s chambers, ex-parte, what to do about it. That’s pretty dumb. Initially, the clerk wasn’t even going to let him in, but Mullane said he worked for the
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