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SCHEIDLER v. NOW

October 30, 1990

JOSEPH M. SCHEIDLER, Plaintiff,
v.
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN, INC., MOLLY YARD, and PATRICIA IRELAND, Defendants


Paul E. Plunkett, United States District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: PLUNKETT

PAUL E. PLUNKETT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 The defendants, National Organization for Women, Inc. ("NOW"), Molly Yard ("Yard"), and Patricia Ireland ("Ireland") are before this court on a motion to dismiss plaintiff Joseph M. Scheidler's ("Scheidler") second amended complaint. The defendants allege lack of personal jurisdiction over Yard, lack of jurisdiction over NOW, improper service of process, and the protection of judicial privilege or the innocent construction rule. For the following reasons we deny the motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over NOW, we reserve ruling on the motion to dismiss the claim against Yard in her personal capacity, we deny the motion to dismiss for lack of service, and we reserve our ruling on possible absolute judicial privilege regarding both the "bombed and burned" and the "aiding [and] abetting" comments until discovery has been developed and a motion for summary judgment filed.

 BACKGROUND

 As we have set out the factual background in some detail in our Order of May 18, 1990, Scheidler v. National Org. for Women, Inc., 739 F. Supp. 1210 (N.D. Ill. 1990) ("Order"), we shall not do so here. Suffice it to say that Scheidler, Director of the Pro-Life Action League, Inc., sued the defendants for defamation arising out of comments that Yard and Ireland made in a NOW press release and at a NOW press conference. Yard is President and Chief Executive Officer of NOW, and Ireland is Vice-President of NOW and lead counsel in litigation brought by NOW against Scheidler in Illinois.

 In our Order we dismissed the first amended complaint with prejudice, "except with respect to plaintiff's claims against defendants NOW and Yard involving statements made at the press conference, which claims are dismissed without prejudice, with leave to amend within thirty days, if plaintiff can state a basis for personal jurisdiction over these defendants in Illinois with respect to these claims." Id. at 1219. The press conference statements at issue are "We believe that these are criminal acts. They have burned and bombed clinics. Since we filed this case . . . Joe Scheidler has been much quieter."

 On June 19, 1990, Scheidler filed a second amended complaint. Once again he names Yard, Ireland, and NOW as defendants, and once again he alleges two counts of defamation per se, one count for words imputing commission of a crime and one count for words injuring plaintiff in his profession.

 The defendants have now moved to dismiss the second amended complaint and we shall address each contention in turn.

 Discussion

 On a motion to dismiss, the court views the allegations of the complaint as true, along with reasonable inferences therefrom, and views these in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Powe v. City of Chicago, 664 F.2d 639, 642 (7th Cir. 1981). Plaintiff's complaint should not be dismissed "unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff is unable to prove any set of facts which would entitle the plaintiff to relief . . . . Nevertheless, a plaintiff must allege sufficient facts to outline the cause of action, proof of which is essential to recovery." Ellsworth v. City of Racine, 774 F.2d 182, 184 (7th Cir. 1985), cert. denied, 475 U.S. 1047, 89 L. Ed. 2d 574, 106 S. Ct. 1265 (1986) (citations omitted). We shall consider each of the defendants' arguments in turn.

 I. Jurisdiction over Yard and NOW

 We previously rejected as bases of jurisdiction the allegations that the defendants committed a tort in Illinois and transacted business in Illinois giving rise to this lawsuit. Scheidler repeats these allegations and also asserts that defendants have consented to jurisdiction.

 Scheidler alleges that Yard and NOW are subject to this court's jurisdiction under Illinois's long-arm statute on the basis of a tortious act committed in this state because "by its press release and press conference, including its publication of news articles thereon in its NOW National Times, NOW intended to, and it did, effect the dissemination within Illinois, as well as elsewhere, of its false report that plaintiff engaged in violent crime including arson and bombing." Second Am. Comp. , para. 6. We find this a sufficient allegation that NOW committed a tortious act in Illinois. Because Scheidler has properly pled that the contents of both the press conferences and the news release were disseminated in Illinois, we find that this court has jurisdiction over NOW and Yard in her official capacity, and we need not consider Scheidler's allegations that the defendants have consented to jurisdiction.


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