• Judge gives former Rock Valley College trustee 28 days to re-file amended complaint
A defamation lawsuit against The Rock River Times filed by former Rock Valley College (RVC) Board of Trustees Member Don Johannes was dismissed by Circuit Judge Janet Holmgren Jan. 22.
Holmgren ruled that the plaintiff failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted and allowed the plaintiff to re-file an amended complaint within 28 days. Holmgren also ruled that a motion to dismiss the case entirely with prejudice may be ruled on at a later date if the plaintiff has re-filed his complaint.
Attorney Cary R. Rosenthal, who is representing Johannes, argued in proceedings that Johannes is not used to this [the questioning of his performance as an RVC board of trustees member by the media] and the reason hes not used to this is because he hasnt done anything wrong. … We havent had the opportunity to argue the case. Hes entitled to his day in court.
In response, Larry Morrissey, the defendants attorney, said: Mr. Johannes may feel hurt, he may feel wronged. But that is not the issue here. We dont even get a statement of what is false. … Theres just statements reprinting public statements. So putting all that together, youve got a bunch of truthful statements, and thats all youve got.
Holmgren ruled: At this juncture, the way the pleading is laid out, it does not satisfy me. Its the plaintiffs burden to plead, and I will grant the motion [to dismiss] and give you [Johannes] another opportunity.
Proceedings were delayed an hour Jan. 22 after Rosenthal arrived at the courthouse about 35 minutes after the scheduled 1:30 p.m. hearing. His office is in Chicago.
The lawsuit against The Rock River Times, Editor & Publisher Frank Schier, and Staff Writer Jeff Havens alleging defamation was filed June 5, 2003. The lawsuit pertains to an April 23-29, 2003, article in The Rock River Times that detailed insurance packages RVC purchased from Chicagos Rabjohns Financial Group. The article was part of a series on RVCs leadership.
Johannes, a local insurance agent who served on RVCs board of trustees from 1985 to 2003, is seeking damages in excess of $100,000, plus attorneys fees, costs of suit and punitive damages.
The case is scheduled for status at 9 a.m., March 18 at the Winnebago County Courthouse.