Had the City Clerk Acted With Malice In Issuing Defamatory Statement Against the Aldermen on the City Council

In Catalano v. Pechous, 83 Ill. 2d 146, 419 N.E.2d 350, 50 Ill. Dec. 242 (1980), seven aldermen on the city council brought actions for defamation against the city clerk, a newspaper reporter and a publisher after an allegedly defamatory statement made by the clerk about the aldermen at the city council meeting was repeated several months later to the reporter, who quoted the defamatory statement in a published article. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 149. Counts I and II of the plaintiffs' complaint alleged that the statements by the city clerk were made falsely and maliciously. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 151. Count III alleged that the statement was reported by the reporter and publisher with knowledge of its falsity and with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 152. Each of the defendants filed motions for summary judgment, and each of the plaintiffs filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 149. The trial court ultimately granted each of the defendants' motions. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 149. On appeal, the appellate court reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the clerk, but affirmed its grant of summary judgment in favor of the reporter and publisher. Catalano v. Pechous, 69 Ill. App. 3d 797, 812, 387 N.E.2d 714, 25 Ill. Dec. 838 (1978). Our supreme court granted the petitions for leave to appeal filed by the clerk and the plaintiffs. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 150. On appeal to the supreme court, the clerk argued that the plaintiffs, as public officials, had not proven that his statements concerning them were made with actual malice as required by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 11 L. Ed. 2d 686, 84 S. Ct. 710 (1964). The Catalona court only briefly covered the "New York Times line of cases" and found that the plaintiff had proven that the clerk had acted with malice when issuing the defamatory statement. Catalano, 83 Ill. 2d at 166.