APPEAL from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard
in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County;
the Hon. ULYSSES S. SCHWARTZ, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE KLUCZYNSKI DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied September 24, 1968.
Plaintiff, William Coursey, a former Skokie, Illinois, patrolman, sued the Greater Niles Township Publishing Corporation and Ronald R. Moore, Jr., for allegedly libelous statements appearing in the September 17, 1964, edition of the Skokie News, a weekly newspaper owned and published by them. Summary judgment for the defendants was entered by the circuit court of Cook County and plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, First District, on the grounds that the pleadings presented a genuine issue of fact which should have been tried. The appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded the cause for further proceedings (82 Ill. App.2d 76). We have granted leave to appeal.
The appellate court opinion accurately states the facts necessary to disposition of the issues raised in this court; accordingly, we quote from that opinion, beginning with the text of the article forming the basis of the present action.
"`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 ...