Local News

Duke Files Motion to Take Down Lawsuit Web Site

Posted February 29, 2008 4:00 p.m. EST
Updated February 29, 2008 6:27 p.m. EST

— Duke University and other plaintiffs named in a civil rights lawsuit have filed a motion in federal court to have a Web site about the suit removed.

The 18-page motion, filed in U.S. District Court Thursday saying the site, www.dukelawsuit.com, and other actions by the plaintiffs' attorney make clear the plaintiffs' intention to "use the techniques of modern communication … to win litigation."

Thirty-eight members of Duke's 2006 men's lacrosse team filed suit last Thursday against the university, the City of Durham, Durham police investigators and others in connection with the defunct criminal case against three of their team members.

In the motion, Duke says that a press conference to announce the suit, a news release before the suit was filed and the Web site, "the official source of information" about the lawsuit "appear to be calculated to 'influence the actual outcome of the trial' and prejudice the potential jurors.

Attorneys argue it is not practical for the defendants to monitor the on a constant basis because it can be updated continuously and viewed all the time.

"A retort in the press cannot meaningfully rebut a Web site that continually changes and offers new and inappropriate information to the public," the motion says.

It also takes aim at the nearly hour-long press conference at the National Press Club in Washington D.C., on Feb. 21, saying the venue "maximized this media sensation."

"Coverage is just what was sought when the press conference was held," the motion says. It cites text from Bork Communication Group's Web site that says legal battles are increasingly fought and won "in a court of public opinion long before attorneys see the inside of a courtroom."

Bork Communications is the public relations firm representing the plaintiffs.

The motion also says statements at the briefing by one of the plaintiffs' father were "presented in a manner calculated to engender sympathy in everyone watching the live feed on television, and anyone who reads what the reporters wrote about the statement, including potential jurors."

The latest of three lawsuits filed in wake of the Duke lacrosse case, this suit accuses Duke of ignoring, suppressing and discrediting evidence that proved the players innocent.

It says the school imposed discipline that implied the team was guilty when it suspended and then canceled the highly ranked team's 2006 season after exotic dancer Crystal Mangum alleged rape against David Evans, Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann.

They were declared innocent in April and have since sued former District Attorney Mike Nifong, Durham and police detectives who handled the case. They reached an undisclosed financial settlement with the university in June.

Three other players filed a suit last year, accusing the school, Nifong and numerous others of a conspiracy that inflicted emotional distress.

Duke has said it will vigorously defend both suits.