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Lester v. Powers

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine
596 A.2d 65 (1991)


Jane Powers (defendant), a junior at Colby College, took a course in abnormal psychology from an associate professor named Lewis Lester (plaintiff). During a lecture, Lester questioned the appropriateness of classifying homosexuality as a psychological disorder. Powers, who was gay, understood Lester’s tone of voice to indicate his disapproval of those who were homosexual. Powers later complained to administration that Lester’s handling of the subject was offensive. After Powers graduated from college, a committee deciding whether Lester should be awarded tenure solicited letters from alumni with input regarding Lester’s performance as a professor. Although Powers failed to respond by the deadline, she received approval from the college administration to respond by letter. In her letter to the committee, Powers expressed her personal observations and opinions regarding Lester, including her subjective assessment that Lester was homophobic, offensive, insensitive, and occasionally intimidating. The committee denied Lester tenure due, in large part, to Powers’s letter. Lester sued Powers for defamation. Powers argued that her comments were non-actionable statements made during the tenure process and protected by a qualified privilege. The trial court granted Powers’s motion for summary judgment. Lester appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Collins, J.)

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