of public figures: all purpose public figures and limited purpose public figures. Id. at 351.
Defendants apparently first maintain that plaintiff was an all purpose public figure. A person becomes a public figure for all purposes and in all contexts when he achieves pervasive fame or notoriety. Id. The court finds that plaintiff did not assume a role of special prominence in the affairs of society so as to occupy a position of such persuasive power and influence that he could be deemed a public figure for all purposes. See Hutchinson v. Proxmire, supra, slip op. at 134. Conceding that plaintiff may have been well known in the Monroe County area, the court does not believe that he possessed the fame and notoriety in the public eye necessary to make him a public figure for all purposes. See Avins v. White, supra, at 647.
Finally, defendants aver that plaintiff was a limited purpose public figure in the circumstances of this case. This group of limited purpose public figures encompasses individuals who become involved in a public controversy and, thereby, become transformed into public figures only with regard to that particular controversy. See McDowell v. Paiewonsky, supra, at 947. In Gertz v. Robert Welch, Inc., supra, the United States Supreme Court explained that an individual who voluntarily injects himself or is drawn into a particular public controversy thereby becomes a public figure for a limited range of issues. Id. slip op. at 351.
Our Court of Appeals has set forth a two-part inquiry for determining whether a defamation plaintiff is a limited purpose public figure. "The court must consider (1) whether the alleged defamation involves a public controversy, and (2) the nature and extent of plaintiff's involvement in that controversy. McDowell v. Paiewonsky, supra, 769 F.2d at 948 (citations omitted). Accordingly, the court first must determine whether a public controversy in fact existed.
Defendants maintain that the public controversy was a dispute over the membership on the Board of Directors of the Association. In support, defendants maintain that litigation concerning this dispute was instituted in Monroe County which litigation was ultimately settled in November 1983 and that a later suit was instituted in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to force the United States Postal Service to deliver mail to one group of the directors or the other. Additionally, defendants aver that the dispute over the rightful directorship of the Association was widely reported in newspaper articles in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, and Scranton, Pennsylvania. The court agrees with defendants that the dispute concerning the composition of the Board of Directors of the Association is a public controversy for purposes of this defamation case. Cf. Schiavone Constr. Co. v. Time, Inc., 619 F. Supp. 684, 703 (D. N.J. 1985) (issue of whether nominee to be Secretary of Labor of the United States is fit to serve and way in which FBI investigates such fitness is a public controversy of the highest order).
In Time, Inc. v. Firestone, 424 U.S. 448, 454, 47 L. Ed. 2d 154, 96 S. Ct. 958 (1976), the United States Supreme Court refused to equate "public controversy" with all controversies of interest to the public. In that case, the Court found that dissolution of a marriage through judicial proceedings was not the sort of "public controversy" referred to in Gertz, even though those marital difficulties were of interest to some portion of the reading public.
As support for their position that the matter was a "public controversy," defendants attempt to establish that the dispute over the rightful membership of the Board of Directors of the Association "was widely covered by and reported on by the newspapers of Northeastern Pennsylvania including but not limited to the Pocono Record and the Scranton Times." See Document 72 of the Record, Affidavit of Lou Cardilla at para. 13. Defendants attach a newspaper article of the Pocono Record newspaper dated May 1, 1984 entitled "Country Place Owners Again Fighting."
Concededly, while the controversy in question may not be of national or even state-wide importance, it is a public dispute of concern to residents of the local community, especially members of the Association. See Lorain Journal Co. v. Milkovich, 474 U.S. 953, 963, 88 L. Ed. 2d 305, 106 S. Ct. 322 (1985) (Brennan, J., dissenting). In Milkovich, Justice Brennan, with whom Justice Marshall joined in dissenting from the denial of certiorari, stated that a controversy involving a local high school wrestling coach was a public controversy of concern to residents of the local community, as important to them as larger events are to the nation. Id. slip op. at 329. Justice Brennan found significant the fact that it was only in this community that the challenged article was circulated. Id. Similarly, in this case, the alleged defamatory material was published in newsletters specifically distributed to members of the Association. It is these Association members to whom the controversy involving the directorship is most prominent. Thus, as to the Association and the local community, the conflict over the proper directorship of the Association is a public controversy in that it affects a segment of the general public in an appreciable way.
The court must determine next whether plaintiff voluntarily injected himself into this "public controversy." The reasons given for distinguishing between public and private figures are as follows:
First, public officials and public figures have 'greater access to the channels of effective communication and hence have a more realistic opportunity to counteract false statements than private individuals normally enjoy.' (citation omitted). Because private individuals have less access to effective self help, such individuals are more vulnerable to injury and the state has a correspondingly greater interest in protecting them.
More importantly, the court in Gertz stated that individuals who seek public office or who are public figures have assumed the risk that in the course of reporting and commenting on a well known person or public controversy, the press may inadvertently make erroneous statements about them. Thus those individuals are less deserving of protection. (citations omitted).