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12/30/88 Diane W. Crocker, v. the Revolutionary

December 30, 1988





533 N.E.2d 444, 178 Ill. App. 3d 401, 127 Ill. Dec. 572, 127 Ill. Dec. 573 1988.IL.1937

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Robert L. Sklodowski, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE CAMPBELL delivered the opinion of the court. QUINLAN and MANNING, JJ., concur.


This is an appeal from certain orders certified for appeal by the trial court which held the defendant, William Caref, in contempt and ordered his incarceration for his refusal to answer certain questions he was directed to answer at his deposition in a libel case brought by plaintiff, Diane W. Crocker, M.D. On appeal, defendant contends that in a civil suit brought by a public official he is protected by the first amendment from the compelled disclosure of the identities of the members of the minority political parties with whom he has chosen to associate.

On August 15, 1986, plaintiff filed an action for libel against the Revolutionary Communist Progressive Labor Party , an unincorporated association, and William Caref seeking a temporary restraining order, a preliminary and permanent injunction and damages in the amount of $15 million. The defendant Caref is a political organizer and the chairman of the Chicago organization of the PLP. The complaint alleges that on November 1, 1985, the plaintiff doctor assumed her duties as chairman of the pathology department and associate chairman of laboratory medicine at Cook County Hospital. At the time she assumed her duties the residency program at the hospital had been placed on probation and she was recruited to undertake to upgrade the standards and performance of the pathology department. The plaintiff supervised a number of physicians and about 95 laboratory technicians and hospital employees.

Beginning on or about July 16, 1986, the complaint further alleges that the defendants published and caused to be circulated throughout Cook County Hospital a newsletter titled the "CCH Arrow." The newsletter contained a letter to the editor which was signed by the "Concerned Pathology Department Staff" in which the plaintiff is referred to as a "racist boss on the warpath at CCH" who is "supposed to be a physician." The newsletter also contained an article which criticized plaintiff for disrupting the entire pathology department. It further claims that plaintiff's behavior was aimed at black and foreign workers and doctors and called for her termination. In addition the complaint further alleges that on August 4, 1986, the defendants circulated and posted throughout Cook County Hospital another issue of the CCH Arrow which contained the headlines "Fire Racist Crocker of Pathology" and "Fire Diane Crocker! Smash Racist Harassment!"

On plaintiff's motion, on August 20, 1986, a temporary restraining order was entered which restrained the defendants from posting or circulating any document urging that plaintiff be discharged from her position and from interfering with her property and contract rights. That order was twice extended until September 26, 1986, when it was vacated. On October 2, 1986, the defendants filed an answer denying the allegations of the complaint and stated that the defendants were not the publishers of the CCH Arrow and that the newsletter was published by the Cook County Hospital Chapter of the International Committee Against Racism .

On December 22, 1986, the defendants filed a motion for summary judgment contending that neither Caref nor the PLP had published, posted or circulated the letter or article in question. Caref's supporting affidavit stated that the association of individuals known as the PLP has never conducted activities under the name of INCAR or in any way assumed the identity of the Cook County Hospital chapter of INCAR. Caref stated that he is a member of the national association of INCAR but not the local Cook County Hospital chapter.

Plaintiff responded to defendants' motion by seeking Caref's deposition. In doing so, plaintiff relied upon subsequent editions of the CCH Arrow which solicited funds for the PLP and encouraged INCAR supporters to support the PLP. The defendants argued that the subsequent newsletters upon which plaintiff relied in seeking Caref's deposition stated repeatedly that the publications which are the subject of her complaint were published by INCAR. On this basis, the defendants contend that they were not responsible for the publications and that the purpose of the depositions was to learn the identities of parties not named as defendants. The trial court ordered that the deposition go forward.

On January 9, 1987, defendant appeared for his deposition. He was questioned concerning his personal background, his education and employment history and about his experience with labor organizations and his association with the PLP. During the deposition, Caref testified that neither he nor the PLP published or was responsible for the letter to the editor or the article which were the subject of plaintiff's lawsuit. He reiterated his prior statement that the letter and article were published by INCAR, which was a separate organization independent of the PLP. During the deposition Caref declined to answer questions seeking the names of members of the PLP and INCAR. On February 6, 1987, plaintiff moved to compel Caref to answer certain questions and on March 10, 1987, the trial court granted plaintiff's motion and ordered Caref to answer the following six questions: (1) the name of the president of PLP; (2) who is on the central committee; (3) the number of people on the Chicago steering committee of PLP; (4) who in the Cook County INCAR group edits the CCH Arrow; (5) identify the person to whom the defendant delivered a copy of the summons and complaint in this case; and (6) did he discuss the publication of the CCH Arrow of August 4, 1986, with anyone in the Cook County INCAR Group.

In accordance with the trial court's order, Caref appeared for the continuance of his deposition on March 23, 1987. He continued to answer questions about the organization and purpose of the PLP and INCAR. He also continued, however, to refuse to identify the members of these organizations.

On April 20, 1987, plaintiff filed a motion for sanctions and a rule to show cause. On May 7, 1987, the trial court, after hearing arguments, ordered that the sheriff take defendant Caref into custody and hold him in the Cook County jail until he answered the certified questions which had been propounded. On May 29, 1987, defendants filed a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, for a stay pending appeal. Following a hearing on July 10, 1987, the trial court again held defendant Caref in contempt and ordered his incarceration until he answered the propounded questions. The trial court noted that the case presented serious constitutional issues and stayed its order pending ...

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