Schafer bought suit against Time
Magazine for libel, because he was misidentified as a TRAITOR to
the United States government as being involved with the bombing
of Pan Am Flight 103.
Schafer argues that the district
court erred during cross-examination by allowing Time to discuss
his felony conviction, violation of subsequent parole, driving
under the influence, bad check writing, failure to pay taxes,
failure to pay child support, and his attempted name and social
security number change.
Character evidence is generally
inadmissible to prove conforming conduct.
In an action for
defamation or libel,
however, the issue of the plaintiff's reputation and character
scarcely can be avoided because the plaintiff typically seeks to
recover compensation for damage to his or her reputation.
District Court Permitted Time to explore Shafers Background
A possible violation of his
Convictions for driving under the
An arrest for writing a bad check.
Failure to file tax returns.
Failure to pay alimony and child
Evidence concerning Schafer's
efforts to change his name and social security number.
Schafer argues - These specific acts were inadmissible
Character evidence does not
constitute an "essential element" of a claim or charge unless it
alters the rights and liabilities of the parties under the
Advisory Committee Examples
" The chastity of a victim under
a statute specifying her chastity as an element of the crime of
 The competency of the driver in
an action for negligently entrusting a motor vehicle to an
Fed.R.Evid. 404(a) adv. comm. note
(explaining that Rule 404 does not exclude such evidence because
it is not offered to prove
conduct consistent with character).
In addition to these examples, a
charge of defamation or libel commonly makes damage to the
victim's reputation or character an essential element of the
Ajouelo v. Auto-Soler
It is generally held that the
foundation of an action for defamation is the injury done to the
reputation, that is, injury to character in the opinion of
others arising from publication
- Schafer's arguments are unpersuasive
We find no error in Time's
exploration of these and other issues of character during its
cross-examination of Schafer.
Time's questions regarding Schafer's
work for Soldier of Fortune magazine, Time's questions fell
within the scope of Federal Rules of Evidence 405(a) and 608(b).
We cannot say that the district
court's decisions on these matters rose to the level of an abuse
of discretion, nor can we say that Schafer suffered a
"substantial prejudicial effect."