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Coursey v. Greater Niles Tp. Pub. Corp.

MARCH 9, 1967.

WILLIAM COURSEY, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE GREATER NILES TOWNSHIP PUBLISHING CORPORATION, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, ROLAND R. MOORE, JR., ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. NICHOLAS J. BUA, Judge, presiding. Judgment reversed and cause remanded with directions.

MR. JUSTICE SCHWARTZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Rehearing denied April 6, 1967.

In an action for libel, summary judgment was entered for the defendants and plaintiff appeals on the ground that the pleadings present a genuine issue of fact which should have been tried. Plaintiff is a former patrolman in the employ of the Police Department of the village of Skokie, a suburb of Chicago. The charge of libel is based on an article printed in the September 17, 1964, edition of the "Skokie News," a weekly newspaper circulated principally in Skokie. It was owned and published by the corporate defendant and Moore. Sanders, who was a defendant and whose name appears in the title of the briefs, was not included in the notice of appeal and is not therefore a party to this appeal. The text of the article follows:

"Fire Coursey, Tell of Girl's Lie Test.

"The teenage girl responsible for having several charges leveled against Skokie Ptm. William Coursey did take a lie detector test — and passed it with `flying colors' — one day last week, reports Corporation Counsel Marvin Glink.

"This was not made public, however, until after the fire and police commission last Wednesday found Coursey guilty of all charges and ordered him discharged from the department.

"Coursey had been charged with unbecoming conduct, leaving his beat, leaving the village (both without permission) and failure to carry out a direct order.

"The commission's formal decision is not expected to be published until early next week, according to chairman Anthony Ross, who, incidentally, will be re-appointed to a new three year term by Mayor Greisdorf very shortly.

"Atty. Gene Shapiro, representing the policeman, indicated the case would be presented to the Circuit Court for trial if motions for a rehearing before the commission are denied.

"The charges stem from an incident at a Skokie bowling alley one Saturday last April when Coursey found several teens out after curfew, sent some of them home, but allegedly followed — in his squad — the girl as she dropped off a friend in Morton Grove, made immoral suggestions to the girl, then followed her into Lincolnwood."

The summary judgment was granted upon the pleadings and upon memoranda of law submitted by both parties. The pleadings consisted of an amended complaint and answer thereto. The amended complaint charged that defendants, intending to injure plaintiff's good name and livelihood and with knowledge that the article was false and with reckless disregard as to whether it was false or not, maliciously composed and caused the article to be published in their newspaper; that the headline was printed in black type, "Fire Coursey, Tell of Girl's Lie Test," and that defendants by this meant that plaintiff was "fired from his position with said police department"; that he was disreputable, depraved and of low morals and character and had been "fired for unbecoming conduct."

The defendants' answer admitted the publication of the article, denied any intention to injure the plaintiff, or that the article was maliciously published or that it contained scandalous and malicious libels. In addition an affirmative defense was filed averring that the defamatory construction placed on the article was not reasonable and that the news story was fair and privileged comment on a quasi-judicial proceeding. Following the filing of their answer, defendants made their motion for summary judgment.

The five charges made to the Fire and Police Commission against the plaintiff are as follows:

"(1) Failure to obey a direct order to submit to a polygraph examination; (2) insubordination, resulting from plaintiff's refusal to submit to a polygraph examination; (3) conduct tending to bring the Skokie Police Department in disrepute, resulting from the alleged improper conduct complained of by the citizen; (4) a technical violation of leaving the ...


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