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England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions
You are here: BAILII >> Databases >> England and Wales High Court (Queen's Bench Division) Decisions >> King v Lewis & Ors  EWHC 168 (QB) (06 February 2004)
Cite as:  EWHC 168 (QB)
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QUEEN'S BENCH DIVISION
Strand, London, WC2A 2LL
B e f o r e :
|- and -
|(1) LENNOX LEWIS
(2) LION PROMOTIONS, L.L.C.
(3) JUDD BURSTEIN
DAVID SHERBORNE (instructed by MORGAN LEWIS & BOCKIUS) for the CLAIMANT
JAMES PRICE QC AND
JUSTIN RUSHBROOKE (instructed by FORBES ANDERSON) for the DEFENDANTS
Hearing date: 26 January 2004
Crown Copyright ©
Mr Justice Eady:
"I have read Don King's recent interviews with Tim Smith and others with great amazement. But for his plainly anti-semitic remark – calling me a 'shyster lawyer' – I would have been merely amused by his desperate and ridiculous charges. Unfortunately, this is not the first time I have encountered such bigotry by Don. Last year, one of his in-house lawyers sent me a letter on Yom Kippur eve demanding that I take action on Yom Kippur. Needless to say, I vigorously objected. Subsequently, that lawyer apologised to me in person while explaining that Don had explicitly refused to permit him to apologise in writing. Since, Don apparently believes that insulting Jews is appropriate conduct (indeed, he reportedly has even playfully imitated Hitler during a press conference), I am sure that no apology will be forthcoming for this more recent conduct.
Were it not for the anti-semitic nature of Don's comments, I would probably have remained silent. No one that knows the both of us is likely to take Don's word over mine. But in light of Don having stooped so low, it is time to take the gloves off. … I realise that he has no shame even when he descends into rank bigotry".
"July 08, 2003; shortly after returning home from vacation, Lennox Lewis's attorney Judd Burstein found some time to speak with boxingtalk.com. Apparently he knew who the 'others' were in this exclusive one on one interview, Burstein and I discussed the ongoing verbal warfare between he and promoter Don King. As well as Lennox Lewis's suit against Tyson and King, and King's retaliatory counterclaim against Lennox Lewis. Read on to see what the heavy weight champ's attorney has to say.
GL: Obviously you've read Don's remarks in my article and Tim Smith's article. What are your thoughts on his comments?
What got me upset and led me to respond to him was the clearly anti-semitic tone in his comments. The term 'shyster lawyer' when used in connection with a Jewish lawyer is designed to provoke anti-semitic feeling. And if this were just something in isolation I wouldn't care about it. But I was told by a lawyer working for Don King, that he wanted to apologise for demanding action from me on Yom Kippur, and Don King has refused to permit him to apologise to me in writing. It's being reported by papers that he imitated Hitler at a press conference, and I was just told today, that during a negotiation with Shelly Finkel, he spent the whole time referring to him as Shelly Finkelstein. He is quite plainly an anti-semite and that kind of conduct and attitude has no place in this modern world. He has every right to disagree with me and take a different position, or argue that I haven't acted appropriately. But when he starts with bigotry, that's when someone has to stand up and say something.
GL: So you have absolutely no doubt that you're not reading too much into what he's saying by accusing him of bigotry?
JB: If this were an isolated incident, I would say that perhaps I was reading too much into it. But it's not an isolated incident and I've seen him play the race card before …"
"… The law would part company with the realities of life if it held that damage caused by publication of a libel began and ended with publication to the original publishee. Defamatory statements are objectionable not least because of their propensity to percolate through underground channels and contaminate hidden springs".
(1) We are concerned with English publication only. What matters, therefore, would be what is conveyed by the words complained of in that jurisdiction.
(2) It is important to focus not so much on how "shyster" would be interpreted in any particular country but rather on what Mr King's state of mind and motivation was when he uttered the remarks.
(3) If an equivalent libel action to this were commenced by Mr King in New York it would not, according to the Defendants' evidence, "survive" (because of the different approach of New York law to defamation): See paragraph 11 of Mr Burstein's own witness statement.
(4) It seems clear from a web search of 900 dictionaries (including specifically American ones) that there is no support for the word "shyster" having any anti-semitic connotations.