Longtime readers know I’ve only used my UD OFFICIALLY EMBARRASSED TO BE A WOMAN headline once before. I can’t even remember what the earlier case was about.

But I tell you. If this be a woman… If this Karin Calvo-Goller be a woman… you can include me out!

From the Times Higher Education:

The editor of a leading international law journal is to stand trial in a French court after he refused to pull an academic book review to which the author took exception.

Joseph Weiler, editor-in-chief of the European Journal of International Law (EJIL), is due to face a Paris criminal tribunal in June after refusing to remove the critical review from a website associated with the journal, www.globallawbooks.org.

Karin Calvo-Goller, senior lecturer at the Academic Centre of Law and Business in Israel, and author of The Trial Proceedings of the International Criminal Court (2006), sued for libel after claiming that the review could damage her career.

In an editorial in the current issue of the EJIL, Professor Weiler, European Union Jean Monnet professor of law at the New York University School of Law, sets out the background to the case and appeals for assistance from readers, warning of grave ramifications if he loses…

Here’s what you can do. Weiler writes this in an editorial in the latest issue of European Journal of International Law:

a. You may send an indication of indignation/support by email attachment to the following email address EJIL.academicfreedom@Gmail.com Kindly write, if possible, on a letterhead indicating your affiliation and attach such letters to the email. Such letters may be printed and presented eventually to the Court. Please do not write directly to Dr Calvo-Goller, or otherwise harass or interfere in any way whatsoever with her right to seek remedies available to her under French law.

b. It would be particularly helpful to have letters from other Editors and Book Review Editors of legal and non-legal academic Journals concerned by these events. Kindly pass on this Editorial to any such Editor with whom you are familiar and encourage him or her to communicate their reaction to the same email address. It would be especially helpful to receive such letters from Editors of French academic journals and from French academic authors, scholars and intellectuals.

c. Finally, it will be helpful if you can send us scanned or digital copies of book reviews (make sure to include a precise bibliographical reference) which are as critical or more so than the book review written by Professor Weigend – so as to illustrate that his review is mainstream and unexceptional. You may use the same email address EJIL.academicfreedom@Gmail.com

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UD thanks James for the link.

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UPDATE:
Turns out UD‘s already used the officially embarrassed bit twice on this blog. Scroll down.

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SECOND UPDATE: Mr UD, who shared this officially embarrassed story with his evening seminar, links UD to a comment on the blog austro-athenian empire:

Given that Calvo-Goller’s actions threaten to injure her reputation by making her look like an idiot and a fascistic jerk, I am hereby charging her with criminal libel against herself.

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ANOTHER UPDATE.

From a comment at Leiter Reports:

[I]t seems to me that this reckless and wildly uncollegial action has done significant harm to academia as a whole. As a profession, it seems that we should consider how to respond to such actions, as they are likely to become more common rather than less given the international nature of the web, and the state of various national laws on libel. I personally think it would be a mistake to simply hope that the various courts of the various governments would sort this all out in a rational manner.

Here’s some important legal detail from another comment:

[F]rom what I gather via various legal websites the court will first have to decide whether the claims made in the book review are libelous – that is, whether they “constitute an attack on the plaintiff’s honor and reputation”. I would be stupefied if the court declared that the reviewer’s claims were libelous; especially since the Cour de Cassation, the highest French judicial instance, has explicitly declared that claims made in polemical or argumentative contexts (including, I gather, academic contexts) are not libelous, even when they are “exaggerate”. (I of course do not mean to suggest that the reviewer’s claims were exaggerate). Moreover, the already overburdened French judges have no interest in encouraging every disgruntled academic to go to trial because of a non-glowing book review.

If, however, the court deems the claims libelous, the burden of proof falls on the defendant, who must either provide evidence that the libelous claims are true, or provide evidence that they were made in good faith. In the latter case, the evidence provided by the plaintiff must show that the author of the claims was sincere, wanted to inform rather than harm the plaintiff, and did some serious research to substantiate his or her claims.

If the court declares the defendant innocent, it may in addition charge the plaintiff with abuse of process, if it considers that there was no reasonable ground for legal action. In such a case the plaintiff has to give reparation to the defendant and pay a fine up to 3,000 Euros. This is apparently a routine way for the French courts to counterbalance the quasi-absence of “sanity check” … between libel complaints and trials.

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If UD may make a prediction:

The financial aspects of this situation will become clearer and clearer to this woman. As they do, she will think better of her lawsuit and drop the thing.

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6 Responses to “UD Officially Embarrassed to Be a Woman”

  1. Ahistoricality Says:

    The Second Update hits it right on the head.

  2. Colin Says:

    I know of at least two recent cases in Ireland where academic journals have been threatened with a libel suit on the grounds of a hostile review. Neither – so far as I know – went to court, but it has had a chilling effect. Last year, I had two reviews altered by editors for fear of a libel suit. In one, I simply identified the affiliation of a group of people thanked by the author, by name: they were all members of a radical Irish republican party, whose military wing isn’t on ceasefire. I thought readers might like to know who the author was thanking. In the other, I noted that the author had plagiarized himself – copying vast tracks of an earlier book verbatim in a book that claimed to be entirely new. I don’t think it has much to do with women!

  3. theprofessor Says:

    UD, surely this has nothing to do with her being a woman–there are plenty of thin-skinned males who probably would do the same thing.

    Just be glad that you weren’t sued for blasphemy, Colin. Isn’t there a E25K fine for that?

  4. Timothy Burke Says:

    The astonishing thing is that it’s not even that dramatically negative a review. Just says that the book doesn’t add much analysis and that it’s sloppily composed.

  5. University Diaries » As with Calvo-Goller, so with the British Chiropractors… Says:

    […] … what expensive webs we weave when we first we prosecute for libel. […]

  6. University Diaries » Cool. Says:

    […] here. (Note that I was wrong. She didn’t drop the case. She kept at it and will now, one hopes, […]

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