580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978), 76-2300, Rosanova v. Playboy Enterprises, Inc.

Docket Nº:76-2300.
Citation:580 F.2d 859
Party Name:Louis F. ROSANOVA, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. PLAYBOY ENTERPRISES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:September 25, 1978
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
 
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Page 859

580 F.2d 859 (5th Cir. 1978)

Louis F. ROSANOVA, Plaintiff-Appellant,

v.

PLAYBOY ENTERPRISES, INC., Defendant-Appellee.

No. 76-2300.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

September 25, 1978

Page 860

Reginald C. Haupt, Jr., Savannah, Ga., for plaintiff-appellant.

Walter C. Hartridge, Savannah, Ga., Michael L. Shakman, Chicago, Ill., for defendant-appellee.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.

Before COLEMAN, HILL, and RUBIN, Circuit Judges.

JAMES C. HILL, Circuit Judge:

This diversity case involves a charge of libel against Playboy Enterprises, Inc. on the basis of an article in Playboy Magazine which referred to Mr. Rosanova as a "mobster." The district court opinion 1 outlines the development of the applicable law in the area of defamation and First Amendment rights, as well as setting out in detail the facts of the case. After extensive discovery by both sides, Playboy moved for summary judgment. This appeal is from the district court's grant of summary judgment in the defendant's favor. The issues on appeal are (1) whether the district court was correct in concluding that the plaintiff is a public figure for purposes of this suit, and, if so, (2) whether the district court was correct in concluding, from the record, that

Page 861

there was no actual malice on the part of the defendant.

The district court was correct in recognizing Mr. Rosanova as a public figure under Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 418 U.S. 323, 94 S.Ct. 2997, 41 L.Ed.2d 789 (1974), and Time, Inc. v. Firestone, 424 U.S. 448, 96 S.Ct. 958, 47 L.Ed.2d 154 (1976), for purposes of this suit. Although the public figure concept has eluded a truly working definition, 2 it falls within that class of legal abstractions where "I know it when I see it," in Mr. Justice Stewart's words. See Jacobellis v. Ohio, 378 U.S. 184, 197, 84 S.Ct. 1676, 12 L.Ed.2d 793 (1964) (Stewart, J., concurring).

There is no dispute that appellant has been the subject of published newspaper and other media reports of his activities. The nature of his reported associations and activities concerning organized crime, are, without dispute, subjects of legitimate public concern. 3 While appellant never disputed that he has associated with various personalities who appear, themselves, to be subjects of widespread media reports, he seeks to dispute the accuracy of prior published characterizations of himself and descriptions of his associates.

In short, appellant does not proffer proof disputing...

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