professor and activist loretta capeheart wins appeal in defamation lawsuit

by Tim Phillips

Loretta Capeheart is a tenured professor in the Justice Studies department at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU). She has been employed by the NEIU since 2002. According to Dave Zirin’s April 2012 article in The Nation,

She is also a vocal union and anti-war activist of many years standing. Understandably, anti-war students sought her out as a group-adviser during President Bush’s war on Iraq. When two students were arrested for peacefully protesting a CIA recruitment station, … [NEIU] President Sharon Hahs denied Capeheart merit raises and department chair positions and attacked her in public meetings.

In addition, the NEIU vice president of student affairs at the time, Melvin Terrell, said during a March 2007 Faculty Council meeting that a student had filed a “stalking” complaint against Capeheart. The student had actually written in a statement to police that Capeheart attempted to chase the student while the student handed out information about the group Capeheart advised. As the student never filed a “stalking” complaint, Capeheart sued Terrell for defamation, among other claims she brought against NEIU, in March 2008.

The court dismissed Capeheart’s claims against Terrell and awarded Terrell attorney fees and costs. Yet Capeheart appealed, and yesterday the appellate court reversed the order dismissing Capeheart’s claims. Her case will now proceed toward trial.