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ACLU Files Brief In Charlottesville Defamation Suit

ACLU Asks Judge to Dismiss Defamation Lawsuit In Monument Controversy

July 22, 2019 - 6:19 pm

Charlottesville, VA _   The ACLU of Virginia has filed a brief asking that a defamation lawsuit against a University of Virginia professor who spoke out through the news media about local issues involving the history of slavery in Charlottesville and their relationship to Confederate monuments be dismissed.  The brief calls the lawsuit is frivolous.

Dr. Jalane Schmidt, historian, activist and associate professor of religious studies at UVa., is being sued by Charlottesville resident Edward Dickinson Tayloe II for a comment published in a March 6 C-Ville Weekly article about local figures fighting the Charlottesville City Council’s efforts to remove Confederate monuments there. Her comment referenced Tayloe’s involvement in protecting the Confederate symbols and his family’s history of slave ownership and domestic slave trade.

 “As a public historian, being able to give accurate historical context regarding current events is crucial. That is why I am working with the ACLU to defend my right to free speech,” Schmidt states.  

Tayloe’s defamation lawsuit, filed May 28, accuses  Schmidt, C-Ville Holdings LLC, and C-Ville Weekly reporter Lisa Provence of defamation and seeks nearly $2 million in damages.

Tayloe alleges in his suit that the a profile entitled "The plaintiffs" Who's who in the fight to keep Confederate monuments" damaged Plaintiff Tayloe's personal and professional reputation "by alleging, by implication and absent any factual support, that the plaintiff opposed renaming Jackson and Lee Parks and removing their namesake monuments because he is a racist and an opponent of people of color."

The ACLU argues in their response that Tayloe is a limited public figure subject to criticism as a result of having interjected himself into the public monument debate,  and that Schmidt's comment is an opinion protected by the First Amendment.   They also argue that Tayloe failed to show that Schmidt made her comment with actual malice, which is a legal standard for defamation.