Sonya Duhe

Sonya Duhé poses in front of a desk on Loyola's campus. (Photo by Cristo Dulom of the Loyola Maroon)

A defamation lawsuit filed by the former director of Loyola University's School of Communication and Design was thrown out Tuesday by a Louisiana appeals court. 

Sonya Duhe sued the university and its newspaper, The Maroon, in May 2021, claiming the coverage of allegations of racism by former students was misleading. 

But the state's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that the coverage was within the university's First Amendment right to free speech.

The defendants — the university, former president Tania Tetlow, The Maroon and its staff adviser, Michael Giusti — will have attorneys' fees covered as a part of the ruling.

In June of 2020, amid the nationwide social justice protests following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, former students came forward and alleged Duhe made racist comments when she was a professor there.

Duhe had recently accepted a job as the new dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University, which rescinded its offer in light of the accusations. Loyola refused Duhe her former job at Loyola as well.

Tuesday's decision from the appellate court followed a May 2022 judgment in 24th Civil District Court in Jefferson Parish denying a civil procedure.

The Fifth Circuit ruled Duhe never contested the truthfulness of the statements made in the reporting, but rather claimed that it was misleading and did not paint a complete picture. This ultimately led the appellate court to throw out the case, citing no clear evidence of defamation.