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FEDERAL COURT RULES FOR BOSTON GLOBE IN LIBEL SUIT

 FEDERAL COURT RULES FOR BOSTON GLOBE IN LIBEL SUIT
 BOSTON, Jan. 13 /PRNewswire/ -- A federal appeals court panel ruled


Jan. 10 that newspaper opinion columns are protected by the First Amendment when the columnist discloses the facts underlying his views.
 The ruling is being called significant in light of a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that columns expressing opinion have no greater protections than news columns.
 The U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that dismissed a libel suit brought by Phantom Touring Co., a theater production company, against the Globe. Phantom had alleged it was defamed in a series of 1989 articles by Globe theater critic Kevin Kelly.
 Kelly's columns suggested that the company benefitted from and contributed to public confusion over the highly successful Broadway version of "The Phantom of the Opera" created by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Phantom Touring's less critically acclaimed musical comedy version of the show.
 In a 17-page opinion written by Judge Frank M. Coffin, the appeals panel said the company had no legitimate claim against the newspaper.
 Coffin wrote that, "Kelly's full disclosure of the facts underlying his judgment -- none of which have been challenged as false -- makes this case fundamentally different from Milkovich."
 In Milkovich v. Lorain Journal, the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990 said statements in opinion columns that cannot reasonably be interpreted as stating facts are still protected, but statements that can be proved false or true can be the subject of court action.
 Although some of the remarks in Kelly's columns could be contested as false or true, wrote Coffin, they are protected. "Because all sides of the issue, as well as the rationale for Kelly's view, were exposed, the assertion of deceit reasonably could be understood only as Kelly's personal conclusion about the information presented, not as a statement of fact," Coffin said.
 The Milkovich decision had created uncertainty in the news media about the degree of protection afforded to opinion columns. But this ruling, according to E. Susan Garsh, a lawyer for the Globe, should "make columnists breathe a little easier.
 "What is significant here," said Garsh, "is that the First Circuit, without looking at Massachusetts law, told columnists they need not fear expressing their conclusions freely. It is for the reader -- not a judge -- to decide whether a columnist's opinion is well founded."
 ----
 EDITORS NOTE: E. Susan Garsh of Bingham, Dana & Gould, 617-951-8473.
 -0- 1/13/92
 /CONTACT: Richard P. Gulla of The Boston Globe, 617-929-3288/ CO: The Boston Globe ST: Massachusetts IN: PUB SU: LEG f


TM -- NE016 -- 9151 01/13/92 14:30 EST
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Date:Jan 13, 1992
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