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Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Defamation Claim Against Art Critic

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed the decision of the District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissing a complaint against a Paul, Weiss pro bono client who is a well-known art critic, along with several other defendants. 

The case arose out of a July 2010 New Yorker article, which examined the practice of art authentication and the people who perform it, including the plaintiff, with a focus on the controversy concerning fingerprint analysis in art authentication and the plaintiff's work in this field. The plaintiff's defamation claim against our client was based on a blog post she wrote on her website that discusses the authenticity of two Jackson Pollock paintings and, in that context, the plaintiff's fingerprint authentication work regarding the possible Pollocks. The district court dismissed the plaintiff's complaint against our client in its entirety on the grounds that the plaintiff was a limited-purpose public figure for the purposes of defamation law, and his complaint against our client failed to plead sufficient facts to give rise to a plausible inference that our client acted with actual malice in publishing her blog post. On appeal, the Second Circuit issued two opinions. In the first opinion, the court ruled that the plaintiff was a limited-purpose public figure under defamation jurisprudence and therefore had to plead actual malice to state a claim for defamation. In the second opinion, the Second Circuit upheld the lower court's decision that actual malice must be plausibly alleged in accordance with Rule 8 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and concluded that the plaintiff's conclusory allegations against our client were insufficient. 

The Paul, Weiss team included litigation counsel Darren Johnson, who argued the case, partners Jay Cohen and Lynn Bayard and associate Angela Shannon.

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