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Ollman v. Evans

750 F.2d 970 (1985)

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Ollman v. Evans

United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

750 F.2d 970 (1985)

Facts

Bertell Ollman (plaintiff) was a New York University political science professor. Rowland Evans and Robert Novak (collectively, the authors) (defendants) wrote an op-ed column about Ollman in the Washington Post. The authors stated that although Ollman was a respected Marxist scholar who was nominated to head the Department of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland, his colleagues considered him a Marxist political activist. The authors also mentioned that Ollman finished last twice in elections for membership on the council of the American Political Science Association. The authors asked whether those electoral losses represented a professional judgment by Ollman’s colleagues. The authors then stated that in one of Ollman’s articles, Ollman claimed that the purpose of his political science course was to convert students to socialism. The authors quoted an anonymous, putatively well-known political scientist who stated, “Ollman has no status within the profession, but is a pure and simple activist.” The authors asked the following questions at the end of their column: What is the true measurement of Ollman's scholarship? Does he intend to use the classroom for indoctrination? The authors stated that academia must resolve this crisis, not politicians. The authors questioned Ollman’s intentions to use the classroom to prepare for what Ollman called “the revolution.” Ollman sued the authors for libel. The district court granted the authors’ motion for summary judgment, concluding the column simply reflected the authors’ opinion and was absolutely protected by the First Amendment. Ollman appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Starr, J.)

Concurrence (Bork, J.)

Concurrence/Dissent (Edwards, J.)

Dissent (Scalia, J.)

Dissent (Wald, J.)

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