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November 25, 2011

Defamation action based on the publication of a judicial decision fails

Defamation action based on the publication of a judicial decision fails
Panghat v New York State Div. of Human Rights, 2011 NY Slip Op 08475, Appellate Division, First Department

Lijo Panghat, alleging that he had suffered defamation as the result of the New York State Division of Human Rights’ having published of a judicial decision in a related matter on its website, sued the Division in the Court of Claims.

The Appellate Division affirmed the Court of Claims’ dismissing his complaint, commenting that Civil Rights Law §74 prohibits a civil action that alleges injury as a result of "the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding." Further, said the court, “The privilege under that statute is absolute and applies even in the face of allegations of malice or bad faith.”

Civil Rights Law §74 grants certain privileges in situations involving an action for libel. The section provides that “A civil action cannot be maintained against any person, firm or corporation, for the publication of a fair and true report of any judicial proceeding, legislative proceeding or other official proceeding, or for any heading of the report which is a fair and true headnote of the statement published.”

§74, however, states that it “does not apply to a libel contained in any other matter added by any person concerned in the publication; or in the report of anything said or done at the time and place of such a proceeding which was not a part thereof.”

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