Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University
United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit
509 F.3d 25 (2007)
Havlik (plaintiff) was a student at Johnson & Wales University (defendant) in Rhode Island and a member of a fraternity. One night, Havlik got into an argument with another student, Ratcliffe, on a sidewalk near campus. Havlik punched Ratcliffe, knocking him down and causing Ratcliffe to hit his head and fracture his skull. There was conflicting reports about whether Havlik had a knife at the time of the incident. Havlik was expelled from the university for violating the Student Code of Conduct. The student conduct board found that Havlik had assaulted another student and engaged in lawless behavior but did not find that he possessed a knife. On the same day as Havlik’s hearing, sometime late in the afternoon, the university issued a crime alert in response to the incident involving Havlik as required by the Clery Act, which requires universities that receive federal funding to notify their constituent communities of crimes that occur on or near campus. The crime alert included both Havlik’s name and his fraternity, because the university’s general counsel, who drafted the crime alert, believed that Havlik and his fraternity was a threat to others on campus due to previous incidents involving the fraternity. The crime alert also stated that Havlik had possessed a knife during the incident. The university’s general counsel did not know, at the time the crime alert was issued, that the board did not find that Havlik had possessed a knife. Havlik filed a lawsuit against the university for defamation. The district court granted summary judgment for the university, and Havlik appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Selya, J.)
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