Sinnett v. Albert, No. 38079

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtHeard before WHITE; McCOWN
Citation195 N.W.2d 506,188 Neb. 176
PartiesJohn W. SINNETT, Appellant, v. Ronald M. ALBERT and Hie Food Products, Inc., a Corporation, Appellees.
Docket NumberNo. 38079
Decision Date17 March 1972

Page 506

195 N.W.2d 506
188 Neb. 176
John W. SINNETT, Appellant,
v.
Ronald M. ALBERT and Hie Food Products, Inc., a Corporation, Appellees.
No. 38079.
Supreme Court of Nebraska.
March 17, 1972.

Page 507

Syllabus by the Court

1. Absolute privilege attaches to defamatory statements made incident to, and in the course of, a judicial proceeding if the defamatory matter has some relation to the proceedings.

2. The rule of absolute privilege is applicable not only to judicial proceedings but to quasi-judicial proceedings as well.

3. The relevancy of the defamatory matter is not a technical legal relevancy but instead a general frame of reference and relationship to the subject matter of the action.

4. There is an absolute privilege to publish false and defamatory matter in a complaint made to the committee on inquiry of the Nebraska State Bar Association regarding the alleged misconduct of an attorney where the defamatory matter has some relation thereto.

5. It is against sound principles of professional ethics for one who knows that he is to be called as a material witness in a case to appear as attorney therein.

Claude D. Shokes, Omaha, Douglas McArthur, Lincoln, for appellant.

William H. Mecham, Omaha, Carl I. Klekers, Ralston, for appellees.

Heard before WHITE, C.J., and SPENCER, BOSLAUGH, McCOWN, NEWTON, and CLINTON, JJ.

McCOWN, Justice.

This is an action by plaintiff, John W. Sinnett, against defendants, Ronald M. Albert and Hie Food Products, Inc., for damages for libel. At the close of the plaintiff's case, the district court sustained defendants' motion for a directed verdict and dismissed the plaintiff's petition. The critical issue on appeal involves the nature [188 Neb. 177] and extent of 'privilege' where the alleged defamation of the plaintiff occurred in connection with proceedings to disbar or discipline an attorney who is not the plaintiff.

It should be noted that in Nebraska, proceedings before a committee on inquiry must be had prior to instituting the judicial procedure for discipline of attorneys. Unless requested by the attorney charged, neither the hearing, records, or proceedings of the committee on inquiry shall be made public nor any publicity be given thereto prior to the filing of a complaint against the attorney in this court. See Rules Creating, Controlling and Regulating the Nebraska State Bar Association, Article XI, paragraphs 10 and 11; and Revised Rules of the Supreme Court of Nebraska, Disciplinary Proceedings, paragraphs 10 and 11, p. 32 (November 15, 1971).

Page 508

The defamatory statement here was a part of a complaint lodged by the individual defendant with a committee on inquiry of the Nebraska State Bar Association against an attorney. The complaint involved the attorney's conduct in connection with a previous lawsuit between the parties involved here. Although the allegedly defamatory statement was never admitted into evidence, it may be inferred that it was an incidental or explanatory part of the complaint against the attorney. The members of the committee on inquiry properly refused to testify as to any of the records...

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21 practice notes
  • Practice and procedure: Patent and trademark cases rules of practice; representation of others before Patent and Trademark Office,
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...v. Bricker, 23 Md. App. 628, 329 A.2d 423 (1974); Netterville v. Lear Siegler, Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss. 1981); Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Weiner v. Weintraub, 22 N.Y.2d 330, 292 N.Y.S.2d 667, 239 N.E.2d 540 (1968); Elsass v. Tabler, 131 Ohio App.3d 66, 721 N.......
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register December 12, 2003
    • December 12, 2003
    ...v. Bricker, 23 Md. App. 628, 329 A.2d 423 (1974); Netterville v. Lear Siegler, Inc., 397 So.2d 1109 (Miss. 1981); Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Weiner v. Weintraub, 22 N.Y.2d 330, 292 N.Y.S.2d 667, 239 N.E.2d 540 (1968); Elsass v. Tabler, 131 Ohio App.3d 66, 721 N.......
  • McGranahan v. Dahar, No. 78-214
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • October 24, 1979
    ...made; it makes no difference whether the person allegedly defamed was a participant in those proceedings. See, e. g., Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Abbott v. Nat'l Bank of Commerce, 20 Wash. 552, 56 P. 376, Aff'd 175 U.S. 409, 20 S.Ct. 153, 44 L.Ed. 217 (1899). We ......
  • Kocontes v. McQuaid, No. S-09-235.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 29, 2010
    ...Life Ins. Co., 140 Tex. 105, 166 S.W.2d 909 (1942). 9. See, Kloch v. Ratcliffe, 221 Neb. 241, 375 N.W.2d 916 (1985); Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Shummway v. Warrick, 108 Neb. 652, 189 N.W. 301 (1922); Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 587 and 590A (1977). 10. Sinn......
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19 cases
  • McGranahan v. Dahar, No. 78-214
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of New Hampshire
    • October 24, 1979
    ...made; it makes no difference whether the person allegedly defamed was a participant in those proceedings. See, e. g., Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Abbott v. Nat'l Bank of Commerce, 20 Wash. 552, 56 P. 376, Aff'd 175 U.S. 409, 20 S.Ct. 153, 44 L.Ed. 217 (1899). We ......
  • Kocontes v. McQuaid, No. S-09-235.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Nebraska
    • January 29, 2010
    ...Life Ins. Co., 140 Tex. 105, 166 S.W.2d 909 (1942). 9. See, Kloch v. Ratcliffe, 221 Neb. 241, 375 N.W.2d 916 (1985); Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972); Shummway v. Warrick, 108 Neb. 652, 189 N.W. 301 (1922); Restatement (Second) of Torts §§ 587 and 590A (1977). 10. Sinn......
  • Friedland v. Podhoretz
    • United States
    • Superior Court of New Jersey
    • April 23, 1980
    ...a complaint are absolutely privileged in a libel action. Wong v. Schoor, 51 Hawaii 608, 466 P.2d 441 (Sup.Ct.1970); Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (Sup.Ct.1972); Wiener v. Weintraub, 22 N.Y.2d 330, 292 N.Y.S.2d 667, 239 N.E.2d 540 (Ct.App.1968); Albertson v. Raboff, supra ;......
  • Pottinger v. Botts, Nos. 2009–SC–000515–TG
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (Kentucky)
    • April 21, 2011
    ...false or entered with malice, Kentucky's judicial statements privilege is absolute and would still apply. Accord Sinnett v. Albert, 188 Neb. 176, 195 N.W.2d 506 (1972) (judicial statements privilege protects contents of attorney ethics complaint [348 S.W.3d 603] so as to bar subsequent suit......
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