In 2008, Dr. Karin Calvo-Goller, a legal scholar teaching in Israel, filed a criminal libel action against Professor Joseph Weiler, editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law and a professor at New York University’s School of Law, for a review of her book published on the journal’s website. Calvo-Goller felt the review was defamatory and asked that it be taken down, which the journal refused to do. The journal offered her an opportunity to post a response,  but instead she filed suit in France, where she was a citizen. Ultimately, Professor Weiler won the case. Despite this victory, many viewed the case as an alarming development for free expression and academic freedom.

The academic world, by its very nature, is supposed to be an incubator for thought and counter-thought. More than just a marketplace of ideas, campuses have always been a veritable playground for the open mind. Perhaps as a result of the increasingly litigious trend in our society, however, bullies and their lawyers now stalk the playground. More and more, academics have sued—and been sued—for defamation. Their cases arise in a variety of contexts that have created perplexing puzzles for judges, accustomed to resolving factual disputes squarely in favor of one litigant or the other. But as any experienced scholar knows, the “truth” of research claims rarely emerges from lecture halls and laboratories without further challenge.

Facts, Nonfacts, and Academic Libel: The Jurisprudence of Reputation in the Ivory Tower