Two law school professors who split $10,000 writing an annual update on Pennsylvania criminal court procedures have each been awarded $2.5 million in punitive damages, to be paid by their former publisher.
Jurors in the U.S. District Court case concluded last week that West Publishing Corp. defamed David Rudovsky and Leonard N. Sosnov because a 2008 addendum to a treatise on criminal procedures contained virtually no new content, but nevertheless named the two men as authors.
West is a major publisher of law books, forms, software and other legal information whose products can be found in virtually every courthouse in the nation. Based in Minnesota, it is appealing the jury's verdict.
Rudovsky is a senior fellow at the University of Pennsylvania law school and a prominent civil liberties and civil rights attorney. Sosnov teaches at Widener Law.
In 1991 West published their Pennsylvania Criminal Procedure: Law, Commentary and Forms. A second edition was published in 2001, and the men provided annual updates tracking changes in criminal court procedures.
But in 2008 West wanted to pay them only $2,500 each, so the two men ceased work on the addendum. Nevertheless, West published an update bearing Rudovsky and Sosnov's names on the title page.
The professors filed suit, contending that the inferior product - only three new cases were cited - damaged their professional reputations.
West quickly pulled the update, but not fast enough, it turned out.
In an interview Monday, Rudovsky and Sosnov's attorney, Richard L. Bazelon, of Bazelon Less & Feldman, said testimony in the case showed "What West had published . . . really was a sham," and done so deliberately.
However, Bazelon said he expects West to appeal both the punitive award and the jury verdict. Along with the punitive damages, the jury last Thursday awarded each man $90,000 in actual damages.
Indeed, West issued a statement Monday that said it believes "there is no basis in fact, law or equity for this outcome."
"We intend to pursue every available avenue, including motions before the district court to set aside the verdict, and appeals to the United States Court of Appeals," the e-mailed statement said.
West's attorney, James F. Rittinger of Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke in New York, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The lengthy volume on criminal procedure is typically purchased by law libraries, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and law schools.