South Bend, Indiana - On Monday, a state court dismissed a defamation suit against The Irish Rover, an independent, non-profit, student publication “devoted to preserving the Catholic identity of Notre Dame.” The court found that the defamation lawsuit, which was filed by Dr. Tamara Kay, a professor at Notre Dame and an outspoken abortion rights activist, was meritless.
When someone exercises his right to free speech on a matter of public concern and is “slapped” with a frivolous suit, Indiana's “Anti-SLAPP” law provides a way for the defendant to get the suit dismissed early in the legal process, saving valuable time and resources along the way. That is exactly what happened to The Irish Rover and is why the court dismissed Dr. Kay's lawsuit.
The Irish Rover published two articles about Dr. Kay—each of which accurately reported on Dr. Kay's public statements and actions following the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade, and following the subsequent passage of Indiana's abortion law.
Dr. Kay posted a sign on her Notre Dame office door which stated, “This is a SAFE SPACE to get help and information on ALL Healthcare issues and access— confidentially with care and compassion.” The sign also contained a capital letter “J” inside a circle. Dr. Kay's twitter account indicated the “J” symbolized those people willing “to help [women] access healthcare”—healthcare in this context clearly referenced abortion-related services, not strep tests.
Dr. Kay's twitter account regularly shared information supporting her pro-abortion stance—including information about “Plan C Pills” (a common term for pills used to induce abortion, often at home).
Dr. Kay also spoke to a meeting of Notre Dame College Democrats in which she explained her scholarship and advocacy work on abortion rights while being a professor at Notre Dame. Recordings and transcripts of the meeting show The Irish Rover's reporting was accurate.
The court held that The Irish Rover was exercising its First Amendment right to free speech when it wrote the articles, and that the articles were in connection with a public issue—specifically, “that a well-known, tenured professor at Notre Dame wrote and spoke about abortion rights and access in very public forums in direct contrast to Notre Dame's stated position on the public issue of abortion.” The court further found the articles were true, written upon the authors' verified research, and written in good faith. Finally, the court concluded the articles were written without actual malice, did not contain a defamatory inference, and that Dr. Kay did not causally link any of her alleged damages to The Irish Rover's articles.
“I am pleased the court recognized and shut down Dr. Kay's efforts to silence and intimidate undergraduate students at her own university for their accurate reporting on her public comments, stated James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for The Irish Rover. “This is a great victory not only for the Irish Rover, but also for the First Amendment.”