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Ewald v. Roelofs

JANUARY 28, 1970.

VINCENT R. EWALD, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

EDWARD E. ROELOFS, LELAND H. RAYSON, PALOS-WORTH PRESS, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, ILENE MERRIFIELD, ET AL., DEFENDANTS, LELAND H. RAYSON, EDWARD E. ROELOFS, PALOS-WORTH PRESS, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, BERNIE MCCARTY AND ROGER CULP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ALBERT E. HALLETT, Judge, presiding. Affirmed in part, reversed in part and remanded.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

Plaintiff, Vincent R. Ewald, a licensed attorney, filed a libel action against defendants. After defendants' motion to strike the complaint was sustained, plaintiff was given leave to file an amended complaint. Upon plaintiff's motion all named defendants were dismissed except appellees Rayson, Roelofs, Palos-Worth Press, Inc., Bernie McCarty and Roger Culp. The 18-count amended complaint consisted of nine odd-numbered counts alleging libel of plaintiff in his profession as a licensed attorney-at-law and nine even-numbered counts alleging libel of plaintiff in his capacity as Village Attorney for the Village of Hickory Hills and attorney for the Village of Worth. Defendants moved to strike the amended complaint for failure to state a cause of action. The trial court sustained the motion and dismissed the suit. Plaintiff appeals.

Plaintiff in this court abandoned the nine odd-numbered counts alleging libel in his profession as a licensed attorney-at-law in view of Tunnell v. Edwardsville Intelligencer, Inc., 99 Ill. App.2d 1, 241 N.E.2d 28, revd on other grounds, 43 Ill.2d 239, 252 N.E.2d 538 (1969). Plaintiff now relies on the nine even-numbered counts alleging libel in his capacity as municipal attorney and concedes that their legal sufficiency must be measured in light of New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 11 L Ed2d 686 (1964) and Coursey v. Greater Niles Tp. Pub. Corp., 40 Ill.2d 257, 239 N.E.2d 837 (1968), affg 82 Ill. App.2d 76, 277 N.E.2d 164 (1967).

Paragraphs 1-5 of Count I of the amended complaint are incorporated by reference into all nine of the even-numbered counts. The plaintiff therein alleges that defendant Palos-Worth Press, Inc. publishes the Worth-Palos Reporter, a newspaper of general circulation in Worth having a circulation of approximately 14,200; that at all times mentioned defendants Roelofs and Rayson were copublishers of the Worth-Palos Reporter and defendants Culp and McCarty were employees.

Plaintiff further alleges that he is a licensed attorney of the State of Illinois maintaining an office in Chicago and Oak Lawn, and that he has always conducted and demeaned himself with honesty and fidelity and has never been guilty nor suspected of being guilty of any misconduct or malpractice in his said capacity and profession, thereby enjoying a good name and reputation as an attorney. The complaint further alleges that plaintiff served as Village Attorney of the Village of Hickory Hills from May 25, 1961, to April 30, 1967, and is now serving as attorney for the Village of Worth, said duties having commenced on May 4, 1965.

Count II further alleges that on July 14, 1966 defendants published the article referred to as Exhibit 10 which stated:

"It is my opinion, the self-interested attorney and the power-hungry president are so bedazzled by their position, they automatically throw their weight around by turning a deaf ear to the `masses.' Somewhere it is written, `Power Corrupts.'

"We shudder when the names Castro, Mao Te Sung, and Viet Cong are mentioned. These names represents [sic] forms of government that are abhorrent to decent freedom loving people.

"The present governing body of Hickory Hills is every bit as abhorrent as those in far away lands."

Plaintiff alleges that he was the attorney for the Village of Hickory Hills at the time the article was published and that being equated to Castro, Mao Te Sung and the Viet Cong was false and defamatory and ". . . was made maliciously by the said defendants in a deliberate attempt to injure the plaintiff and prejudice him in his character, reputation and good standing as a municipal attorney. . . ." Damages of $100,000 are alleged.

Count IV further alleges that on October 6, 1966 defendants published the article referred to as Exhibit 13 which stated:

"President John Boyce was also called in and he took village attorney Vincent Ewald along for legal counsel. Ewald advised Boyce not to sign an affidavit or complaint and he didn't sign.

"Vincent Ewald, as village attorney, after an unanimous vote by the village board requested a thorough investigation, was duty bound to help the State's Attorney to clear up the alleged charges of shakedown. Instead, he told Boyce not to do a thing to help clear up the scandal, and Boyce took his advice. This was a definite move to block the investigation.

"Was Vincent Ewald there as the private attorney for John Boyce? We doubt it, but if he was the village shouldn't pay him, and he ...


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