Don Imus

Don Imus Donald Imus nappy headed ho Above the Law blog.jpgThere has been some discussion already, but here’s a dedicated thread for a topic that there’s no shortage of opinions on: Rutgers basketball player Kia Vaughn’s defamation lawsuit against radio host Don Imus.
Thus far, reactions seem to be similar. From our tipster:

It seems like a likely loser, because I don’t see a false statement of fact. I don’t think anyone really believes Imus was trying to impute unchastity to the Rutgers basketball team (i.e., calling them prostitutes); rather, he was making a really inappropriate and racist joke, and everyone understood it as such.

Nevertheless, although it’s a legal loser, I predict Imus will settle as a gesture of goodwill. Perhaps a scholarship will be set up.

Professor Ann Althouse is dubious:

It’s hard not to be distracted by Imus’s large pile of money. Would it kill him to share? But I’d hate to think one could win defamation suits on a theory like this.

David Nieporent concurs:

Imus’s comments might have been nasty and uncalled for, but calling someone a ‘nappy headed ho’ is not defamatory unless it is interpreted as an actual accusation that the person is a prostitute.

Fine, the claim based on “ho” may be a no-go. But what about the allegation of nappy-headedness? As one commenter notes: “[A]ll of the women on the Rutgers team had straightened hair.”
Good point. And to some people — e.g., Glamour editors — alleging that someone has nappy hair is defamatory per se.
Don Imus Sued by Rutgers Basketball Player [ABC News]
Rutgers basketball player sues Imus [AP via MSNBC]
“Don Imus referred to my client as an unchaste woman. That was and is a lie.” [Althouse]
Imus in the Courtroom, Update [Overlawyered]

* Vick counsel divided over plea. [CBS 46]
* Crooked NBA ref may also plead. [SportsLine.com; SI.com]
* Rutgers player sues Imus for defamation. [MSNBC]
* While passenger sues Lohan in alleged angry car chase. [CNN]
* Interesting article on “De-Criminalizing Mental Illness” in courts, legislature, and streets. [Time]

Don Imus Donald Imus nappy headed ho Above the Law blog.jpgJust like a certain Cleary-visiting Glamour editor, Don Imus isn’t a fan of the “nappy hair” look for women. And his right to say so, on the radio airwaves, is contractually protected. From the Associated Press:

Don Imus has reached a settlement with CBS over his multimillion-dollar contract after his being fired from his morning talk show and is in negotiations with WABC radio to resume his broadcasting career there, CBS and a person familiar with the negotiations said today.

Mr. Imus and CBS Radio “have mutually agreed to settle claims that each had against the other regarding the Imus radio program on CBS,” that network and Martin Garbus, a lawyer for Mr. Imus, said in a joint statement today.

The settlement terms are undisclosed, but the rumor on Drudge is that Imus is getting $20 million. That buys a lot of Hohos.
Imus and CBS Reach Settlement of Threatened Suit [Associated Press]


sphinx of sacramento Anthony Kennedy Justice Anthony M Kennedy Above the Law blog.JPG* Justice Kennedy profile: “The Sphinx of Sacramento.” [Slate]
* NBA refs give a new meaning to DWB. [
SI]
* Imus plans lawsuit based on contractual language that acknowledged irreverence. [MSNBC]
* Trans fat lawsuit against KFC deep fried, disposed of properly. [CNN]
* Indian judge who issued Gere warrant transferred. “Routine”? [MSNBC]

A draft copy of Don Imus’s complaint indicates that the fired radio show host will be suing CBS, his former employer, for $120 million. Details here.
That’s a hefty chunk of change. It’s three times the total value of his $40 million contract.
But look at it another way. A hundred and twenty mil is still less than the cost of two pairs of pants. If you’re an exalted Administrative Law Judge, for the District of Columbia.
Exclusive: Imus Says CBS got what it bargained for [ABC News]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Don Imus (scroll down)

Don Imus Donald Imus nappy headed ho Above the Law blog.jpgOkay, not exactly. But Martin Garbus, the legendary litigator now representing former CBS radio host Don Imus, is coming out swinging.
Yesterday Garbus announced that Imus would sue CBS Radio for the unpaid portion of Imus’s $40 million contract. He said to expect the lawsuit by the end of next week.
Garbus cited a clause in Imus’s contract acknowledging that his show was “unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial.” This language may be part of the contract clause we discussed back in this post.
This morning’s news includes another argument we’ll probably see in the eventual lawsuit. From the AP:

CBS Radio and MSNBC had delay buttons, but didn’t use them when Imus made racist and sexist comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, lawyer Martin Garbus said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“That means CBS and MSNBC both knew the language that was going out, and both knew the language complied with (Imus’) contract. … It was consistent with many of the things he had done,” Garbus said.

Interesting. It sounds like CBS may have a real fight on its hands. And if the matter goes to a jury trial, there may be some sympathy for Imus. Here are the results of our recent ATL poll:
Don Imus Martin Garbus Donald Imus Leslie Moonves Les Moonves CBS radio Above the Law blog.jpg
And this poll was taken before we learned about the exact wording of the contract clause, as well as CBS’s alleged failure to use its delay buttons.
Hey Yul Kwon — CBS wants its million dollars back…
Imus Lawyer: We’ll Sue for Full Contract [Associated Press]
Imus Lawyer: Bosses Could’ve Cut Remarks [Associated Press]
Earlier: Is the Nappy-Headed Don Imus Entitled To One Free Bite of the Hoho?

Don Imus Donald Imus nappy headed ho Above the Law blog.jpgThis appears to be the legal theory to be advanced by controversial former radio host Don Imus, through his “ferocious” litigator, the renowned Martin Garbus. Reports Fortune:

Imus has hired one of the nation’s premiere First Amendment attorneys, and the two sides are gearing up for a legal showdown that could turn on how language in his contract that encouraged the radio host to be irreverent and engage in character attacks is interpreted….

The language, according to this source, was part of a five-year contract that went into effect in 2006 and that paid Imus close to $10 million a year. It stipulates that Imus be given a warning before being fired for doing what he made a career out of – making off-color jokes. The source described it as a “dog-has-one-bite clause.” A lawsuit could be filed within a month, this person predicted.

We’re curious: What do ATL readers think about the Imus firing?


(The Pew Research Center also conducted a poll to gauge public attitudes towards Don Imus’s firing. It will be interesting to see how their poll results compare to the ATL poll results.)
Hoho Hostess Hohos Chocolate Cake Above the Law Blog.gifP.S. We love Wikipedia. Check out their entry for HoHos:

HoHos are cylindrical, frosted, cream-filled cakes that are made by the Hostess company and are distributed in the United States and Egypt. The Interstate Bakeries Corporation owns the Hostess company. HoHos are similar to Yodels, which are made by Drake’s (also a brand of Interstate Bakeries Corporation), and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls.

Imus won’t go quietly [Fortune]
Poll: Most Americans say Imus’ punishment appropriate [Associated Press]
Earlier: Don Imus Hires “Ferocious” Litigator

GarbusM.jpg
Don Imus has hired a prominent litigator, prompting speculation that the dismissed DJ may be plotting legal action against his former employers (CBS and MSNBC).
The lawyer is Davis & Gilbert partner Martin Garbus, named by Time Magazine as “legendary, one of the best trial lawyers in the country.” According to BusinessWeek:

A brief sentence on Garbus’ personal blog, late Friday afternoon, noted that Garbus “represents Don Imus in a dispute with CBS”—a sentence that was later removed from the blog.
A ferocious litigator who has received numerous media citations as one of America’s leading trial lawyers, Garbus has represented clients as diverse as the comic Lenny Bruce, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Nancy Reagan, and pioneering rap group Public Enemy.

Even cooler than the thought of Nancy Reagan and Public Enemy eyeing each other from opposite sides of the Davis & Gilbert lobby: Garbus’ bio notes that he “won what is arguably the most important due process case of the 20th century, Goldberg v. Kelly (397 U.S. 254).”
He also blogs at The Huffington Post.
Sounds like Imus is in good hands.