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Defamation Claim Against Law Journal Tossed

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge dismissed a defamation complaint against the publisher of the National Law Journal, citing California's anti-SLAPP law.

Jesse Enjaian, representing himself, sued ALM Media Properties over a National Law Journal story published under the headline: "Law School Alum, Accused of Stalking, Loses Suit Against U. Michigan."

A Twitter message linked to the article stated: "Judge tosses lawsuit brought by Michigan Law alum accused of stalking former classmate."

Enjaian claimed that the word "accused" falsely implies that he had been charged with the crime of stalking.

But U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton ruled that the term "accused" does not necessarily connote a criminal charge.

Enjaian also argued that the article and Twitter message took his statements out of context and misrepresented his lawsuit.

In her 4-page, Dec. 23 ruling, Hamilton found that the defendants' publications were "sufficiently 'fair and true' to qualify as privileged."

Citing Carver v Bonds, (135 Cal. App. 4th 328, 351 (2005)), the judge added: "a 'news article need not track verbatim the underlying proceeding,' and that the privilege applies unless 'the deviation is of such a substantial character that it produces a different effect on the reader.'

"In other words, the article needed only 'convey the substance of the proceedings.'"

Enjaian declined to comment on the ruling, but said that he and the defendants are drafting a settlement to waive attorney fees in exchange for a waiver of appeal.

The defendants could not be reached for comment.

The anti-SLAPP statute is designed to prevent parties from making meritless lawsuits to bury defendants in legal fees. SLAPP denotes "strategic lawsuit against public participation."

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