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Media Advisory

Mock trial arising from an actual libel case v. the LA Times

02 April 2003


Contact: Janet Gilmore
(510) 642-5685 jeg@pa.urel.berkeley.edu

A mock trial court competition at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law (Boalt Hall) that arises from an actual libel case filed against the Los Angeles Times.

The case, Thomas vs. the Los Angeles Times, was dismissed by a federal district court judge in Los Angeles last year based on the newspaper's First Amendment rights.

This competition will provide plaintiff Michael Thomas with his first opportunity to present evidence that his attorney had gathered and had hoped to present in a court of law.

Friday, April 4, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Room 105, Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley. The event is free and open to the public.

Thomas's attorney, Anthony Glassman of Los Angeles, also will present Thomas's case in the mock trial competition. John Bartko of San Francisco, an attorney not affiliated with the Los Angeles Times or the actual case, will try the Times's side of the case. Both attorneys are Boalt Hall alumni.

Michael Ballachey, a Boalt Hall alumnus and retired Alameda County Superior Court judge, will preside. There will be no ruling on the case. Following the mock trial, Boalt Hall Professor Stephen Barnett, Graduate School of Journalism lecturer William Turner, and Judge Ballachey, will offer commentary.

On April 15, 2001, the Los Angeles Times ran a lengthy profile of Michael Thomas headlined "Larger than Life: From escaping concentration camps to cavorting with royalty to plotting an education revolution, Michael Thomas has had one adventure after another. Even he knows his life story invites skepticism." Thomas filed a libel suit against the paper in a federal district court in Los Angeles in October 2001. The court dismissed his complaint three months later. Thomas appealed, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the lower district court's ruling, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined review.

UC Berkeley's journalism and law schools are sponsoring this event as an impartial educational activity. Observers will see top litigators in action and hear informed analyses of First Amendment and defamation law as well as of journalistic practices.