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Lotrich v. Life Printing & Pub. Co.

NOVEMBER 24, 1969.

JAMES LOTRICH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

LIFE PRINTING & PUBLISHING CO., INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND JOHN F. KUBIK, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. NICHOLAS J. BUA, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. JUSTICE BURMAN DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT. This is an action to recover damages for libel as a result of publication of an article by the defendants which reported the disposition of a criminal case against the plaintiff. The defendants moved for summary judgment on the grounds that the article was a privileged report of official governmental proceedings and records. Plaintiff filed a verified reply. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants and dismissed the case with prejudice. From this judgment plaintiff appeals.

On July 24, 1968, plaintiff James Lotrich, filed a complaint at law alleging that he was libeled by an article which appeared on June 29, 1968, in the defendants' "Suburban Life," a weekly newspaper of general circulation in the suburbs of Cook County. The complaint set forth the article haec verba:

"N R RESIDENT SENTENCED TO PROBATION

"A sentence of one year's probation was given Wednesday in La Grange Park court by Judge Harry Schrier to James Lotrich, 2314 S 17th, North Riverside, on a charge of indecent exposure before two Evergreen Park women, May 2, near La Grange Rd. and Brewster.

"He pleaded guilty.

"He also was advised to seek medical help and to report quarterly to the court on his medical condition."

The complaint alleged that the article was wholly false and defamatory in that (a) plaintiff was not sentenced to or given one year's probation; (b) he was only charged with "disorderly conduct"; (c) he did not plead guilty to any charge; and (d) he was not to report quarterly to the court on his medical condition. The complaint further alleged that by reason of the premises of the article plaintiff has been damaged and injured in his reputation and his ability to obtain employment in the community in which he lives. He requested judgment for $500,000.

In the motion for summary judgment, defendants asserted that (1) the newspaper article was a protected exercise of the right to report the actions, utterances, and records of government; (2) the article was a protected exercise of the right to report substantial truth; (3) the article was within the rights of free speech and press guaranteed by the United States and Illinois Constitutions; and (4) the complaint failed to set forth a cause of action.

There were four exhibits attached to the motion. Exhibit "A" was the official record entry of the La Grange Park Police Department concerning the disposition of the plaintiff's case. It recites that James E. Lotrich was arrested on May 2, 1968, on the charge of "Disorderly Conduct (Exposure)" upon complaint of Mrs. Holzkampf. It was headed as Court Disposition before Judge Harry Schrier on June 26. Then it disclosed the following:

"Plea: Guilty

"Disposition: Guilty as charged, placed on one (1) year probation to be terminated 25 June 1969; to secure medical assistance and doctor(s) conducting treatments to send court a report quarterly during probation period."

Exhibit "B" is another entry of the La Grange Park Police Department. It recites that the victim was Mrs. Helen Holzkampf and the offense was "Exposure" on May 2, 1968. It then proceeds:

"Charge: Disorderly ...


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