NEGATIVE REVIEWS: LEGAL LIABILITY FOR ACADEMIC CRITIQUES

D. Kleiner

St. John's University (UNITED STATES)
Academics play various roles, from classroom teacher to researcher to writer. As part of their professional responsibilities, professors often write reviews of other professors’ work. While these reviews are sometimes positive, they are often critical. Can a professor be liable for libel, criminal or civil, for publishing a negative review? The specter of such liability was raised in a criminal complaint filed in France by an author from Israel whose book was critiqued by a professor from Cologne, Germany. Although the court in Paris ultimately dismissed the complaint and actually sanctioned the complainant for filing the action, the lawsuit raises a number of interesting problems. Under what circumstances can a review – from book review to restaurant review – trigger liability for libel and to what extent can a plaintiff engage in forum shopping in order to locate a venue sympathetic to one’s claim? Academics review student work on a regular basis; can they be held liable for that or for statements made in letters of recommendation? This presentation explores some of these issues confronting academics today.
keywords: academics, law, reviews, libel.