Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., No. 69 C 1288.

CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Illinois
Writing for the CourtWayne B. Giampietro, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff
Citation306 F. Supp. 310
PartiesElmer GERTZ, Plaintiff, v. ROBERT WELCH, INC., Defendant.
Decision Date18 November 1969
Docket NumberNo. 69 C 1288.

306 F. Supp. 310

Elmer GERTZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT WELCH, INC., Defendant.

No. 69 C 1288.

United States District Court N. D. Illinois, E. D.

November 18, 1969.


Wayne B. Giampietro, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiff.

James A. Boyle, Jr., Chicago, Ill., for defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

DECKER, District Judge.

Plaintiff, a practicing attorney, brings this diversity action for libel under Illinois law, claiming that defendant published a magazine article, and reprints thereof, designating plaintiff as a Communist or Communist sympathizer. Defendant has moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, or alternatively, for failure to satisfy the requisite jurisdictional amount.

Plaintiff's complaint alleges that he has been injured in his professional reputation and practice by defendant's publications. The alleged defamatory statements include representations that plaintiff has been an "official of the Marxist League for Industrial Democracy, originally known as the Intercollegiate Socialist Society, which has advocated the violent seizure of our government," that he is "preeminent" in the "Communist National Lawyers Guild," and that he is a "Leninist" and a "Communist-fronter."

The complaint generally seeks actual damages of $10,001 and punitive damages of $500,000 in each of two counts. If the libel is only a libel "per quod" rather than a libel "per se," the complaint would be defective because it fails to allege special damages which are essential to the maintenance of a per quod action. See, e. g., Whitby v. Associates Discount Corp., 59 Ill.App.2d 337, 207 N.E.2d 482 (3d Dist. 1965); Continental Nut Company v. Robert L. Berner Company, 393 F.2d 283 (7th Cir. 1968). The defendant contends that calling the plaintiff a Communist amounts only to a libel per quod.

Prior cases have uniformly held that it is libel per se under Illinois law to falsely label one a Communist. Dilling v. Illinois Publishing and Printing Company, 340 Ill.App. 303, 91 N.E.2d 635 (1st Dist. 1950); Spanel v. Pegler, 160 F.2d 619, 171 A.L.R. 699 (7th Cir. 1947); cf. Ogren v. Rockford Star Printing Company, 288 Ill. 405, 123 N.E. 587

(1919). Recent Illinois Appellate Court cases in two districts have, however, equated the standards for libel per se with those for slander per se.1 Assuming that the resultant narrowing of the libel per se category is now the law of Illinois, plaintiff's complaint nonetheless...

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7 practice notes
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., No. 81-2483
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1982
    ...ruling, the trial court held that the libelous words published by the defendant constituted libel per se. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 306 F.Supp. 310 (N.D.Ill.1969). Because of this ruling, injury was presumed, and, upon proof of the falsity of the statements in the article, the court subm......
  • Sindorf v. Jacron Sales Co., Inc., No. 257
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 25, 1975
    ...contained in the article constituted libel per se under Illinois law and that consequently (Gertz) need not plead special damages. 306 F.Supp. 310 After answering the complaint, (Welch) filed a pretrial motion for summary judgment, claiming a constitutional privilege against liability for d......
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc 8212 617, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1974
    ...contained in the article constituted libel per se under Illinois law and that consequently petitioner need not plead special damages. 306 F.Supp. 310 (1969). After answering the complaint, respondent filed a pretrial motion for summary judgment, claiming a constitutional privilege against l......
  • United States v. WIYN Radio, Inc., Civ. A. No. C77-65R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • December 15, 1978
    ...on other grounds, 185 F.2d 641 (9th Cir. 1950), cert. denied, 340 U.S. 954, 71 S.Ct. 570, 95 L.Ed. 688 (1951); see also Gertz v. Welch, 306 F.Supp. 310 (N.D.Ill.1969), verdict set aside on other grounds, 322 F.Supp. 997 (N.D.Ill.1970), affirmed 471 F.2d 801 (9th Cir. 1972), reversed, 418 U.......
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7 cases
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., No. 81-2483
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • June 16, 1982
    ...ruling, the trial court held that the libelous words published by the defendant constituted libel per se. Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., 306 F.Supp. 310 (N.D.Ill.1969). Because of this ruling, injury was presumed, and, upon proof of the falsity of the statements in the article, the court subm......
  • Sindorf v. Jacron Sales Co., Inc., No. 257
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • June 25, 1975
    ...contained in the article constituted libel per se under Illinois law and that consequently (Gertz) need not plead special damages. 306 F.Supp. 310 After answering the complaint, (Welch) filed a pretrial motion for summary judgment, claiming a constitutional privilege against liability for d......
  • Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc 8212 617, No. 72
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • June 25, 1974
    ...contained in the article constituted libel per se under Illinois law and that consequently petitioner need not plead special damages. 306 F.Supp. 310 (1969). After answering the complaint, respondent filed a pretrial motion for summary judgment, claiming a constitutional privilege against l......
  • United States v. WIYN Radio, Inc., Civ. A. No. C77-65R.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Northern District of Georgia
    • December 15, 1978
    ...on other grounds, 185 F.2d 641 (9th Cir. 1950), cert. denied, 340 U.S. 954, 71 S.Ct. 570, 95 L.Ed. 688 (1951); see also Gertz v. Welch, 306 F.Supp. 310 (N.D.Ill.1969), verdict set aside on other grounds, 322 F.Supp. 997 (N.D.Ill.1970), affirmed 471 F.2d 801 (9th Cir. 1972), reversed, 418 U.......
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