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Top Court Declines To Halt Paladin 'Hit Man' Suit
Calvin Reid -- 4/27/98
The Supreme Court has declined to review an appellate court ruling that Paladin Press's Hit Man, a how-to-commit-murder manual, is not protected by the First Amendent. The Court's action thus allows a lawsuit charging Paladin Press with abetting murder to continue. Nevertheless, there remains some expectation that the high court may still review the case in Paladin's favor after a ruling is reached in the victims' families' lawsuit.
This case began in 1993 after a copy of Hit Man was found among the belongings of a man who was later convicted of murder for the contract killing of three people. The victims' families subsequently filed suit against Paladin Press, charging it with aiding and abetting murder. Howard Seigel, attorney for the victims' families, told PW he had expected the latest ruling and, as he has since this case began, he dismissed concerns over his suit's potential for chilling free speech, maintaining that when speech becomes a vehicle for a criminal act, it is not protected. Book publishers (as well as TV and film producers) remain concerned that a ruling against Paladin could make them liable for "copycat" crimes.

Following the November appellate court ruling, publishing lawyer Martin Garbus told PW that he expected the Supreme Court to decline review. "Paladin's appeal was premature. The trial will allow a finding of the facts. I expect that this case will be back before the Supreme Court by early next year," he said.

Steven Zansberg, one of Paladin's lawyers, told PW that the press still hopes to have the case dismissed. Zansberg told PW that for the appellate motion, Paladin had been forced to agree to certain facts, or stipulations -- for instance, that Hit Man was intended to be used by criminals. These stipulations were repeatedly cited by the judges in their ruling against Paladin. Zansberg noted that those stipulations were only for the purpose of the previous motion. "We remain hopeful that this suit will be dismissed on other grounds. This case is far from having a foregone conclusion."
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