Defamation Case Study: James Franco v. Professor

Actor James Franco Is Joining The Celebrity Defamation Defendants Club.

Well, it looks like actor/student/professor/poet/professional-arrogant James Franco may have to squeeze in a little legal reading, because the polarizing celebrity is being sued for defamation by Jose Santana.

It all started when Franco enrolled in Santana’s NYU class, Directing the Actor. Santana insists the failed Oscar host only attended two classes – which resulted in a D at the end of the semester.

Santana was fired shortly after Franco got his near failing grade. If you believe the professor, his walking papers were a result of the Franco-D; if you believe the university and actor, Santana’s firing had nothing to do with Franco, but instead Santana’s unsatisfactory teaching.

Livid after his dismissal, Santana brought an unlawful firing lawsuit against NYU.

Why The Professor Sued For Defamation

With the swagger we have all come to expect from Franco, several months ago, at the height of D-gate, in the midst of the Santana v. NYU lawsuit, the actor smirked to the press that Santana was “awful,” adding, “I didn’t feel like I needed to waste my time with a bad teacher.” But Franco didn’t stop there. He went on to publicly announce on behalf of his alma mater that “No teacher will ever be fired from NYU for giving a student a ‘D.’ He wasn’t fired, he was asked not to come back after three years because they didn’t think he was a good teacher.” And I suppose Mr. Franco has an accurate magic 8-ball, as he also groused that Santana was “not going to be hired at another institution.”

Perhaps, though, James should have kept his mouth shut, because now the teach is setting his legal sites on Franco in the form of a defamation lawsuit. Specifically, Santana says that Franco is “a bully” who is using his “celebrity pulpit” to “punish anyone who doesn’t do his bidding.” The directing instructor went further by averring that Franco’s statements were “disparaging and inaccurate.” “I was outraged that someone with his attendance record at NYU,” explained Santana, “had the audacity to make those statements.”

The question now remains: does Jose Santana have a shot at winning this high-profile defamation lawsuit? While it’s unwise to pontificate on the outcome of the trial without having read all the relevant documents, it’s safe to say that the court will probably treat Santana as a public figure since he willingly thrust himself into the spotlight by filing the suit against NYU in April. Plus, the professor willingly spoke about the lawsuit to the media. As such, he’ll have to prove “actual malice” in order to win the case.

Actual malice is when the defendant in a defamation lawsuit states a known falsity as fact with the intent to harm or acts with reckless disregard for the truth. It seems, however, that Santana and his defamation lawyers have already factored in the actual malice standard, as the professor recently said that Franco’s statements were, indeed, malicious since the student/actor was well aware of Santana’s “overwhelmingly positive student evaluations.”

Are you being sued for defamation? Are you in need of a defamation lawyer? Contact Kelly / Warner Law today to speak with one of our accomplished slander and libel attorneys.

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