October 21, 2020

US: 11th Circuit targets Public Interest in Rosa Parks case

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Rosa-Parks-Target-Article-Article-201601051701By Katheryn Hayes Tucker, From Daily Report

In an opinion that reads like a biography, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit used ’ starring role in the civil rights movement to justify ruling against a nonprofit corporation that owns her name and likeness.

The court held that the nonprofit cannot pursue a right of publicity case against . over the retailer’s selling books, movies and plaques depicting Parks’ life.

The opinion said that U.S. District Court Judge W. Keith Watkins of the Middle District of Alabama was correct in deciding the First Amendment shields Target Corp. against a lawsuit filed by the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development.

The supporting law lies in Michigan’s qualified privilege for matters of public concern regarding the right of publicity, which is a variation on the right to privacy. Michigan law applies because that’s where Parks lived at the time of her death in 2005.

“Of course, it is beyond dispute that Rosa Parks is a figure of great historical significance,” wrote Judge Robin Rosenbaum, writing for a panel that included Judge Julie Carnes and Senior Judge Joel Dubina.

Rosenbaum added that the civil rights movement is “a matter of legitimate and important public interest.” She went on to say that five of the six books and the movie in question were “all bona fide works of nonfiction discussing Parks and her role” in the movement. And the sixth book, “Childhood of Famous Americans: Rosa Parks,” by Kathleen Kudlinshi, is a fictionalized biography meant to introduce children to the icon, which also “concerns a matter of public interest.”

“The institute has not articulated any argument as to why Michigan’s qualified privilege for matters of public concern would not apply to these works, in light of the conspicuous historical importance of Rosa Parks. Nor can we conceive of any,” Rosenbaum said. “Michigan law does not make discussion of these topics of public concern contingent on paying a fee.”

The Parks Institute is represented by Gwendolyn Thomas Kennedy of Kennedy Law Group in Montgomery, Alabama. Target is represented by Helen Kathryn Downs of Butler Snow’s Birmingham office.

The attorneys could not be reached for comment.

The 15-page opinion opens like a movie script describing the events of Dec. 1, 1955, the day Parks was arrested for refusing a Montgomery bus driver’s demand that she give up her seat to a white man. “Although more than a year had passed” since the issued Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, invalidating the separate-but-equal doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson, “change was slow to arrive in Alabama.”

“Rosa Parks had had enough,” Rosenbaum wrote. “After a long day of work, she boarded the bus in downtown Montgomery and took a seat.” The judge goes on to write what Parks would later describe as her feeling the moment she decided not to give up her seat: “I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night.”

Rosenbaum wrote that Parks inspired the , which lasted for more than a year until the U.S. Supreme Court held the city’s segregation law unconstitutional and ordered desegregation of the buses.

“Parks’ refusal to cede ground in the face of continued injustice has made her among the most revered heroines of our national story; her role in history cannot be overemphasized,” Rosenbaum wrote. “It is in the general public interest to relentlessly preserve, spotlight and recount the story of Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights Movement—even when that interest allegedly conflicts with an individual right of publicity.”

In 2005, shortly before she died, Parks settled a long-running suit she brought against the hip-hop group OutKast for using her name as the title of a song.

IMAGE: Rosa Parks AP/John Disney, Daily Report

For more on this story go to: http://www.dailyreportonline.com/id=1202746322209/11th-Circuit-Targets-Public-Interest-in-Rosa-Parks-Case#ixzz3wZKrlG8N

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