Judge Dismisses Notre Dame Professor’s Lawsuit Against Student Newspaper

Sociology professor Tamara Kay last year sued the 'Irish Rover' over its content that depicted her as supportive of expanding access to abortion.

University of Notre Dame.
University of Notre Dame. (photo: Peter Zelasko / CNA)

A judge has dismissed a professor’s defamation lawsuit against an independent student newspaper at the University of Notre Dame, ruling that the instructor’s claims of defamation against the newspaper related to its reporting on her abortion advocacy did not hold merit.

Sociology professor Tamara Kay last year sued the Irish Rover over reports that depicted her as supportive of expanding access to abortion, with the instructor claiming that the paper misrepresented her on multiple occasions. 

Kay filed the suit against the Rover in response to two articles that reported on the professor’s pro-abortion activism, including her alleged efforts to help students obtain both emergency contraception and abortifacients. 

In Tamara Kay v. The Irish Rover, Kay said that the newspaper inaccurately described a sign on her university office door that, according to the Rover, offered students assistance with procuring abortion drugs.

The Rover, in response to Kay’s lawsuit, had lodged an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) filing. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press defines an anti-SLAPP motion as one meant to “prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.”

On its X feed this week, a representative from the Irish Rover said that the suit had been “rightfully dismissed” by Judge Steven David, who ruled that Kay’s defamation claim “fails as a matter of law.”

The “alleged defamatory statements were true, within the meaning of the law, not made with actual malice, did not contain a defamatory inference, and there were no damages that were causally linked to the Irish Rover articles,” David wrote in the ruling, concluding that “the statements in the articles were lawful.”

The news outlet's reports “were made in the furtherance of the defendant’s right to free speech, were made in connection with a public issue, [and] were made with good faith and with a reasonable basis in law and fact,” the judge said. 

On the paper’s website this week, the Rover’s editors said that Kay had “attempted to silence and intimidate undergraduate students at her own university for accurate reporting on her public comments.” 

“We hope that this ruling will serve to discourage such efforts to chill free speech in the future and invigorate others to courageously exercise their right to freedom of speech in pursuit of the truth,” the editors wrote. 

An email to Kay’s Notre Dame account on Wednesday was returned with an automated message that the mailbox was full. 

Joseph DeReuil, who wrote one of the stories named in the suit, told CNA last year that he was “not at all worried about the result of the lawsuit.”

DeReuil said, “The Rover’s reporting simply brought her already public advocacy to the attention of the pro-life parts of the Notre Dame community, adding minimal context through her own statements to the Rover.”