Ratner v. Young

465 F. Supp. 386 (1979)

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Ratner v. Young

United States District Court for the District of the Virgin Islands
465 F. Supp. 386 (1979)

  • Written by Sharon Feldman, JD

Facts

William Kunstler (plaintiff) was a leading defense lawyer who defended members of minority groups charged with crime throughout the country. Kunstler typically involved himself in widely publicized, controversial cases. In the 1960s, he defended leaders in the revolt to overthrow, as he called it, the “establishment.” Leroy Mercer (plaintiff) and other local attorneys were appointed defense lawyers in a murder trial in St. Croix. The trial was of concern to Virgin Islands residents and property owners because it had racial overtones and adversely affected the economy. Kunstler came in uninvited and took over the defense without pay. Kunstler invited lawyer Margaret Ratner (plaintiff) to join him. Judge Andrew Young (defendant) presided over the trial. Kunstler and Ratner were in complete charge of defending the case. Ratner played a leading role, and she and Kunstler aided the defendants in shouting obscenities at Young. A Baltimore, Maryland, judge wrote to Young, complimenting Young on his handling of the trial. The Maryland judge stated that he had sympathy for the situation Young faced because the Maryland judge had presided over a trial in which Black Panthers had murdered a white police officer, Kunstler had interjected himself, and Kunstler and Ratner were using the same tactics in the St. Croix trial. After the St. Croix defendants were convicted and sentenced, the St. Croix Avis published an article about the trial and reprinted the letter the Maryland judge wrote to Young. Kunstler, Ratner, and Mercer sued Jerome Dwyer, the managing editor of the St. Croix Avis, the publisher Brodhurst Printery, Inc. (Brodhurst) (defendants), and Young, alleging that the letter was libelous. Dwyer, Brodhurst, and Young moved for summary judgment.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Brewster, J.)

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