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Prof. Richard Epstein Dismissed from Book-Blurb Libel Case, on Jurisdictional Grounds:

According to the Institute for Justice (also reported in this Dallas Observer blog (Robert Wilonsky):

A Dallas judge yesterday ordered that nationally renowned law professor Richard Epstein be dismissed from a defamation lawsuit brought by Dallas developer H. Walker Royall. In that lawsuit, Royall claimed that Epstein defamed him merely by writing a blurb on the back cover of Bulldozed: "Kelo," Eminent Domain, and the American Lust for Land. Carla Main, the author of Bulldozed, and Encounter Books, the book's publisher, remain targets of Royall's lawsuit.

Bulldozed tells the story of eminent domain abuse in Freeport, Texas, and ties that story to the larger issue of eminent domain abuse in America after the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Royall was a key player in the Freeport debacle, having signed an agreement with the city of Freeport whereby the city would take land owned by a local seafood business through eminent domain and transfer it to Royall's company for a luxury marina development project. During that dispute, Royall sued the targets of the takings, the Gore family, over statements they made about Royall on a website opposing the taking. When Carla Main wrote a book about eminent domain abuse in Freeport, Royall sued her, too, along with her publisher. When Epstein contributed a blurb to the back cover, Royall sued him. Royall also sued a local newspaper that ran a review of Bulldozed and the writer who wrote the review.

Epstein is now out of the lawsuit. Dallas Judge Carlos Cortez ordered Epstein's dismissal after Royall failed to show that the Texas court had jurisdiction over the Illinois resident, who has not been to Texas in more than 13 years.

Epstein is a professor at the University of Chicago Law School and New York University School of Law. Ironically, he is the author of a prominent book on eminent domain, as well as a torts casebook that is used in law schools across the United States.... [A]lthough Epstein has now been dismissed, Main and Encounter remain as defendants....

Prosecutorial Indiscretion:
I always had the impression that Prof. Epstein barnstormed the country giving lectures in every possible forum. I'm quite surprised to hear he hasn't been to Texas in over 13 years. I wonder if he's been intentionally avoiding Texas, or if it was just a happy coincidence.
3.3.2009 12:47pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
How is that ironic?
3.3.2009 12:56pm
Andy Bolen (mail):
Ironically, he is the author of a prominent book on eminent domain

The reason he has the blurb is because he's a relevant expert. No irony there...
3.3.2009 12:57pm
Bama 1L:
It's like rain on your wedding day.
3.3.2009 1:32pm
Joseph Slater (mail):
Bama 1L ftw.
3.3.2009 1:45pm
A Law Dawg:
Bama 1L ftw.


Please don't encourage that.

(by which I mean, Bama 1L posted it before I did).
3.3.2009 1:49pm
SFJD (www):
I attended his barbri lectures, which were quite entertaining (as far as contract lectures go) and full of plugs for his family restaurant business. His deadpan jokes were almost--almost--as good as Prof. Chemerinsky's.
3.3.2009 2:07pm
Dave N (mail):
Careful Eugene, H. Walker Royall sounds suit-happy enough that he might sue you for reporting this.
3.3.2009 2:09pm
titus32:
I attended his barbri lectures

Professor Epstein gave barbri lectures? Are you sure you've got the right Epstein?
3.3.2009 2:43pm
TomHuff (mail):
"I attended his barbri lectures, which were quite entertaining (as far as contract lectures go) and full of plugs for his family restaurant business."

Different Epstein. (David Epstein of SMU is the BarBri prof; Richard Epstein of U.Chicago is the well-known law and econ scholar who wrote the above book blurb.)
3.3.2009 2:50pm
SFJD (www):
Nope wrong Epstein.
3.3.2009 2:51pm
SFJD (www):
i.e. i'm wrong not you guys. Bad commenter no cookie.
3.3.2009 2:53pm
titus32:
No worries. Prof. Epstein would give pretty amusing barbri lectures, though. I'm not sure if his students would pass the bar, however (I say that with affection for the man).
3.3.2009 4:19pm
booyah:

No worries. Prof. Epstein would give pretty amusing barbri lectures, though. I'm not sure if his students would pass the bar, however (I say that with affection for the man).


Haha. Which says more about the law than it does about Epstein... :P
3.3.2009 6:04pm
Mark S. Devenow Esq. (mail):
This case is pretty interesting on a number of counts. First, the dismissal of Epstein, for want of en personem jurisdiction, at first glance seems strange: Epstein must sell a lot of Torts textbooks in Texas and receive a stream of royalties following. Whether this, without more, might create personal jurisdiction is something I have no view on, but one thing can be said for certain: If and where en personem jurisdiction attaches whimsically (or by reference to purely authorial-flimsy-attenuated notion(s) of 'purposeful availment') the door is opened to all sorts of unintended (and unintendedly perverse) consequences. Accordingly, it is probably a good thing that Epstein was written out as a defendant in the lawsuit on grounds that the Court lacked/lacks personal jurisdiction over him. [Viz. What if Epstein was considering an offer to teach at the University of Texas (and not NYU) at the time the dust jacket blurb was written?]

Beyond this, it would seem that someone like Royall, who appears to be able and willing to sue anyone he feels like suing - for any reason or for no reason at all - has managed to effectively convert a legal regime putatively establishing/interposing constitutional protections to speech within the ambit of public policy commentary into the English rule(s) regarding libel. To be certain, Royall hasn't managed to formally accomplish the burden-shifting inversion, but does it really matter where there are no effective obstacles to Royall's ability to punish people for disagreeing with him. Thus, by his ability to impose legal costs on persons less well-suited (and/or disposed) to being defendants in a lawsuit, Royall seems to have upped the ante on purely political speech in ways which may only be regarded as nothing short of perverse.
3.3.2009 10:17pm

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