A recent libel case in Chicago federal court involving the American Bar Association illustrates the difficulty of succeeding in a defamation claim.
The litigation centered around an article published in an ABA journal in 2015. The plaintiffs comprised seven forensic handwriting experts, or “diplomates,” certified by the Board of Forensic Document Examiners, which has only 12 certified diplomates.
Defendant Thomas V., a forensic document examiner certified by the American Board of Forensic Document Examiners, a different body, published in the Judges’ Journal an article entitled “Forensic Handwriting Comparison Examination in the Courtroom.” Not mentioned was the fact that Thomas sits on the board of the American Board and is its past president. Both boards are certified by the Forensic Specialties Accreditation Board.
The article proposed preferred qualifications for forensic document examiners. The plaintiffs alleged several statements were specifically defamatory to them based on their affiliations with the Board of Forensic Document Examiners:
- “An appropriately trained forensic document examiner will have completed a full-time, in-residence training program lasting a minimum of 24 months per the professional published standard for training. Judges need to be vigilant of this issue. There are large numbers of practitioners who do not meet the training standard.”
- “The American Board of Forensic Document Examiners … is the only certification board recognized by the broader forensic science community, law enforcement, and courts for maintaining principles and training requirements concurrent with the published training standards. Be wary of other certifying bodies.”