According to a brief notice in the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday, the Edwin Mellen Press has settled the lawsuit it brought in 2012 against Dale Askey, a librarian at McMaster University.

In 2010, while working at Kansas State University, Askey had written a blog post critical of the press’s business practices and the quality of its publications (a copy of that post is included in the filing documents to which I’ve linked above). Mellen Press founder Herbert Richardson sued Askey in 2012, asking for more than a million dollars in damages.

At the same time, Mellen Press filed suit jointly against Askey and McMaster University, asserting — although McMaster had no relationship with Askey at the time of the blog posting — that it was “vicariously liable” for defamation and asking for $3.5 million in damages.

In March 2013, Mellen “discontinued” (though apparently did not technically “drop”) its joint lawsuit against McMaster and Askey; the separate lawsuit against Askey himself remained active. That lawsuit is now apparently over. Details of the settlement have not yet been revealed, but Askey was quoted in the Chronicle as saying that the two parties had reached a legally binding agreement that “mutually releases all parties from any claims.” Askey said that “no money changed hands between the plaintiff and defendant.”

The Mellen lawsuits were discussed in previous Scholarly Kitchen postings here and here. A legal threat from Mellen’s attorney led to those postings being briefly taken down; following review by the Society for Scholarly Publishing’s Board of Directors they were reinstated. The threats were the subject of a report in the Chronicle, which also ran a lengthy profile of Richardson and his business practices.

These threats and lawsuits were not isolated incidents. In 1993, Richardson brought suit against Lingua Franca magazine, which had published a lengthy criticism of Mellen Press’s business practices and the quality of its books. That lawsuit, too, was unsuccessful. The following year, Richardson was fired from his tenured position at the University of Toronto after being found guilty by an academic tribunal of “gross misconduct.”

On Thursday, no one was answering the phones at Edwin Mellen Press.

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson

Rick Anderson is University Librarian at Brigham Young University. He has worked previously as a bibliographer for YBP, Inc., as Head Acquisitions Librarian for the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, as Director of Resource Acquisition at the University of Nevada, Reno, and as Associate Dean for Collections & Scholarly Communication at the University of Utah.


3 Thoughts on "Edwin Mellen Press Ends Its Lawsuit Against Librarian"

Note that if “no money changed hands between the plaintiff and defendant” Mr. Askey is left with the legal costs coming from this frivolous suit.

Happily, that’s not quite true. According to a report last year in the Chronicle, McMaster University has committed to cover Askey’s legal costs. It would have been more satisfying if Mellen had lost in court and been forced to pay those costs, but without knowing more details about the negotiation it’s hard to know whether settling was the better course of action.

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