Some readers may remember the long-running defamation suit between John “Freedomnomics” Lott and Steven “Freakonomics” Levitt. Defamation suits are rarely settled in the plaintiff’s favor, so this (subsrciption required) may be regarded as more than a small victory for Lott:
John R. Lott Jr.’s defamation lawsuit against a fellow economist, Steven D. Levitt, has provisionally been settled — but it may yet roar back to life. In documents filed on Friday in federal court, the two parties outlined a settlement that requires Mr. Levitt, who is a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and a co-author of the best-selling book Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explains the Hidden Side of Everything, to send a letter of clarification to John B. McCall, a retired economist in Texas. …
By some measures, Mr. Lott appears to have won little from his 15 months of litigation. No money will change hands, and the settlement does not require a formal apology from Mr. Levitt.
But on certain points of reputation and pride, Mr. Lott might take some satisfaction. Mr. Levitt’s letter of clarification, which was included in Friday’s filing, offers a doozy of a concession. In his 2005 message, Mr. Levitt told Mr. McCall that “it was not a peer-refereed edition of the Journal.” But in his letter of clarification, Mr. Levitt writes: “I acknowledge that the articles that were published in the conference issue were reviewed by referees engaged by the editors of the JLE. In fact, I was one of the peer referees.”
The settlement also leaves open the possibility of Lott appealing against the dismissal of the second part of his suit, that Levitt defamed him in Freakonomics itself.