Havlik v. Johnson & Wales University, No. 07-1879. The First roars back to life. In this case, the plaintiff, a student, claims that a “crime alert” issued by a university pursuant to The Clery Act, 20 U.S.C. § 1092(f) (the Act), which “requires colleges and universities that participate in federal financial aid programs to notify their constituent communities of certain reported crimes” was defamatory. The First holds that schools enjoy a “qualified privilege, stemming from its duty under the Act, to publish the crime alert” see Ponticelli v. Mine Safety Appl. Co., 247 A.2d 303, 305-06 (R.I. 1968). It rejects the notion that the Clery Act doesn’t actually impose such a duty based on an analysis of the geographic scope of the act, but the First concludes that what matters is whether the defendant’s ascertainment of his duty to speak was objectively reasonable.
Read on for the god, country, and Apple Day!
The plaintiff also argued that there was some showing of malice because of the wording of the alert.
The plaintiff also claimed the school beached a contract by not adequately following its own appeal procedures. This is a fairly interesting argument, but the school wins because the provision is “sketchy” as to what information may be considered.
Because it is written by Selya, who would never have anything to do with anyone ever falsely maligned or accused of a crime, there is a lot of twaddle in there about how schools need to protect people. There are a lot of big words in the opinion because Selya likes to tell people how smart he is. On the other hand, the plaintiff is a fratboy, so I can’t say that I would take a liking to him, either.