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This US Supreme Court justice loves what a R.I. law professor wrote about libel law

Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch.Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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Happy Monday and welcome to Rhode Map, your daily guide to everything happening in the Ocean State. I’m Ed Fitzpatrick -- filling in for Dan McGowan while he’s on vacation this week -- and I’ll remind you the Red Sox still lead the season series over the Yankees, 7-2. Follow me on Twitter @FitzProv or send tips to edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com.

ICYMI: Rhode Island was up to 152,971 confirmed coronavirus cases on Friday, after adding 45 new cases. The overall daily test-positive rate was 0.9 percent. The state announced no new deaths, keeping the total at 2,736. There were 16 people in the hospital, and 646,660 residents were fully vaccinated. Check our dashboard for more data.

US Supreme Court justices are citing law review articles less often than in past decades. But Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch recently cited an article by Roger Williams University School of Law professor David A. Logan a total of 16 times.


On July 2, Gorsuch repeatedly marshaled data from Logan’s Ohio State Law Journal article in a high-profile dissent urging the high court to reconsider New York Times v. Sullivan, the landmark 1964 ruling interpreting the First Amendment to make it hard for public officials to prevail in libel suits. Gorsuch and Justice Clarence Thomas dissented from the court’s decision to not take up a libel case brought by the son of a former prime minister of Albania.

“That’s 16 times more than I’ve ever been quoted by the Supreme Court,” said Logan, who served as dean of Bristol-based RWU Law from 2003-2014. “After 38 years of sending law review articles out into the ether, it’s nice to see that someone really gets engaged with the scholarship.”


Logan described himself as a “yellow dog Democrat” who has long been a “zealous defender of all things pro-First Amendment.” But he said his “Road to Damascus” began when his research showed how hard it has become to prevail in libel cases. While there were 27 defamation trials per year involving the media in the 1980s, there were just three in the nation in 2018, he said.

The media landscape has changed dramatically, with social media and 24-hour cable news expanding while traditional fact-checking news organizations struggle, Logan said. And he said he has become distressed by the number of lies circulating in public, including the many misstatements of former President Donald Trump.

“It became more and more apparent to me that truth was losing out and people were lying with virtually no fear of civil judgments,” Logan said. “Lies are eroding democracy. People don’t know what to believe, and if you don’t know what to believe, you don’t know who to vote for, and if you don’t know who to vote for, you don’t have a democracy.”

The problem is evident, he said, in two high-profile cases: One of Bill Cosby’s sexual-assault accusers sued him for allegedly smearing her through leaks, but her complaint was dismissed because her own accusations against Cosby had made her a “limited purpose public figure.” And InfoWars host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones was “able to wrap himself in the First Amendment,” forcing parents of Sandy Hook school shooting victims to prove “actual malice” and that their children had actually been killed, he said.


Logan said he doesn’t want New York Times v. Sullivan overturned. Rather, he favors a “judicious pruning” that would, for example, narrow who is considered a public official or public figure. “I get that (Providence) Mayor (Jorge) Elorza is a public official, but cops and teachers?” he said. “Give them a break.”

Logan also called for Congress to change Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to force platforms like Facebook and Twitter to take greater legal responsibility for what’s on their sites.


⚓ My latest: Throughout the United States, people are debating “critical race theory,” and here in little Rhode Island, even a brother and sister -- Robert J. Chiaradio Jr. and Westerly School Committee chairwoman Diane Chiaradio Bowdy -- find themselves an Ocean State apart on the issue. Read more.

⚓ My colleague Amanda Milkovits reports that Pawtucket police officer Daniel Dolan Jr. pleaded not guilty to four felony charges for shooting a teenage driver outside a West Greenwich pizza parlor. Read more.

Brian Amaral reports that Providence police officer Patrick Hourahan, who shouted “Who wants some more?” after police pepper sprayed people in South Providence last month, has been suspended without pay for 10 days. Read more.


⚓ In this week’s Ocean State Innovators Q&A, Alexa Gagosz talks with one of the Brown University students who founded Intus Care, which uses analytics to predict the future risk of elderly patients in nursing homes. Read more.

Eleanor Slater Hospital patients are receiving excellent care, but the state-run hospital system faces leadership challenges, outdated health records, and facilities that need repair, a new report found. Read more.

Governor Daniel J. McKee vetoed legislation that would have made changes to the Insurance Unfair Claims Settlement Practices, saying those changes would have cost consumers. Read more.

Hasbro Children’s Hospital has been chosen as one of 12 pediatric facilities that will help develop ways to make child health care “more equitable and family focused.” Read more.


Politics: Last year’s unprecedented expansion of unemployment benefits met with a backlash from employers and some politicians, but Jim Puzzanghera reports that the money provided a financial lifeline for tens of millions of Americans. Read more.

Sports: The fan who threw a baseball that hit Boston Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo in the back on Saturday night has been banned for life from attending major league games. Read more.

Religion: A move by Pope Francis to restrict celebration of Latin Mass is drawing a mixture of praise and denunciation from Catholics in the United States. Read more.


Olympics: U.S. tennis player Coco Gauff will be forced to miss the Tokyo Olympics after testing positive for the coronavirus. Read more.


Each day, Rhode Map offers a cheat sheet breaking down what’s happening in Rhode Island. Have an idea? E-mail us at RInews@globe.com.

⚓ A “Peace Memorial Vigil” will begin at 6 p.m. at Cranston City Hall to honor the life of Haiti’s assassinated president, Jovenel Moïse, and “the many lives lost by ongoing violence and civil unrest.” Cranston Councilwoman Aniece Germain and Providence Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune are organizing the event with Hope and Change for Haiti and the Haitian American Partnership for Positive Actions.

⚓ At 5 p.m. at the State House, Representative Karen Alzate will present Dr. Alvaro J. Olivares, a psychiatrist affiliated with Butler Hospital and other hospitals, with The Legacy Award, which Colombian-American elected officials give each year to those who uplift Colombian-American culture.

⚓ The Warwick City Council meets at 7 p.m. to consider, among other items, an ordinance requiring the City Council to receive 60 days notice before voting on any contract or benefit package.

⚓ The Joint Committee on State Lottery meets at 4 p.m. to get updates on the Twin River and Tiverton casinos.

⚓ Do you ❤ Rhode Map? Your subscription is what makes it possible. We’ve got a great offer here.

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Edward Fitzpatrick can be reached at edward.fitzpatrick@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.