Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Hypersensitive Israeli Writer Gets Hit in the Pocketbook

Joseph H.H. Weiler, the Winner
Some of you will remember this article from February 22 about an Israeli writer who sued an American editor who published a review of her book because she refused to accept a bad review (although this one was tame by any standard).  The review's actual writer was not named in the suit, only the publisher. The situation was laughable but it did send a ripple of unease throughout the blogosphere about the dangerous precedent something like this might set if the case were to come under the jurisdiction of the "wrong" judge.

Well, now for the good news.  The French judicial system has heard the case, and the good guy (the editor/publisher, of course) won.  According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, this is what happened:
A French court has dismissed a criminal-libel charge brought against a journal editor over a negative book review and ordered the plaintiff to pay punitive damages. The editor, Joseph H.H. Weiler, a professor at New York University's School of Law, said he had been awarded €8,000 (about $11,000) as a result of the action brought against him by Karin N. Calvo-Goller, a senior lecturer at the Academic Center of Law & Business, in Israel.
In the ruling, the court said the review expressed a scientific opinion of the book and did not go beyond the kind of criticism to which all authors of intellectual work subject themselves when they publish. It agreed with Mr. Weiler's contention that the case did not properly fall within its jurisdiction anyway. It concluded that Ms. Calvo-Goller had engaged in forum shopping and had shown bad faith in bringing the complaint. It said it was ordering the plaintiff to pay the €8,000 to Mr. Weiler in reparation for the harm caused by the improper nature of her action.


  1. but Sam, to hear HER side of the story, The Chronicle of Higher Ed has posted a new article by Jennifer Howard there which does just that. Go look and blog it too.

  2. and sam, then blog her pov and reax to it? good idea? at least give her a fair shake?


  3. Dan, I tried to take advantage of the links you provided but they go to a "subscription only" article, so I can't take you up on your suggestion. If you have a link to the whole article that I can get to without paying $45 I would love to take a look at it. Thanks.

  4. Hi Sam, yes for now the CHE story is behind a firewall, erm paywall, i thought it would be free for everyone to read, but no such luck for now, but i did some online magic and here is what the story says more or less. And you may quote from any of it, for your new blog, pro or con, this is just Dr CG's POV and many of the quotes appear in the blokced CHE article but my blog is free, and comments are welcome, pro or con, from one and frm all, you too. I am not a legal eagle, sam, so i have no idea what this lawsuit is all about, and i am not an academic or a PHD, i just think it's good to hear both sides of the controversy and here is Dr Calvo-Goller's POV:


  5. ''Although it's shocking this case got as far as it did and cost the defendants as much as it did, at least the plaintiff got the humiliating result she deserved. As I have followed the case over the last few months I've wondered why her friends or colleagues hadn't staged an intervention.''

  6. Sam, Dr Karin Calvo-Goller would like to add this brief comment in regard to the already-published interview she granted to Jennifer Howard at the Chronicle
    of High Education in Washington DC, since comments are no longer being posted there without a subscription and the interview itself is behind a paywall that non-subscribers cannot read or see comments posted after the article.

    The CHE interview can be read here in its entirety:

    Dr Calvo-Goller notes:

    "In recent months, regardin the lawsuit in Paris, which has now been dismissed and which I decided not to appeal, I was often asked to comment by reporters and scholars on my choice of a French court
    rather than an Israeli court for lawsuit venue, and also to comment on Israeli libel law in relation to the internet.

    Although I publish mostly in France, I would have preferred to file the claim in Israel. It would
    have been less costly and less time-consuming since no travel would have been required as
    far as I was concerned.

    Libel law and internet issues are not my fields of expertise, and before consulting any lawyers
    in the US or in France, I consulted an Israeli lawyer.

    According to the Israeli lawyer I consulted in June 2007, my claim would not succeed in
    an Israeli court since two Israel Supreme Court judgments did not consider the internet as
    constituting a means of publishing what is deemed to be a libelous text or expression,
    contrary to the printed media or public declarations.

    I was recently informed that this is not so.

    I am not in a position to know whether in June 2007, this was a clear-cut issue or one that was subject
    to interpretation. I recently invited the lawyer I consulted in June 2007 to participate in an academic
    discussion on this subject, but he said he was busy with other work now.

    My French lawyer, who specializes in this field, as well as the French investigating Judge
    and the Prosecutor who had to decide whether or not to transfer the case to the Tribunal
    Correctionnel, considered that this was a case of defamation."