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C. Delores Tucker, the former politician who began a crusade against “gansta rap” music, cannot sue the estate of rapper Tupac Shakur for the cursing criticisms of her that he included in the lyrics of his final album because he was simply expressing his opinion, a federal appeals court has ruled. In a seven-page opinion handed down this week, a unanimous three-judge panel of the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a decision by U.S. District Judge Ronald L. Buckwalter to dismiss a suit against Shakur’s estate, his label, Death Row Records, and various distributors and retailers. U.S. Circuit Judge Jane R. Roth wrote, “The district court found that the lyrics of the first song, ‘Wonda Why They Cal U,’ heard in their entirety, were a poignant description of the self-destruction of a young woman and that the reference to Tucker did not tend to injure her reputation, her business or profession, or expose her to public hatred, contempt or ridicule and thus were not defamatory. We agree.” As for the second song, “How Do U Want It,” Roth said that she and her colleagues again agreed with Buckwalter’s decision that the lyrics were “vulgar but not defamatory.” In the second song, Shakur raps, “Delores Tucker, yous a muthaf-a. Instead of trying to help a nigga you destroy a brotha. Worst than the others, Bill Clinton, Mr. Bob Dole, you too old to understand the way the game’s told.” Tucker’s lawyer, Richard C. Angino of Angino & Rovner in Harrisburg, Pa., argued that the lyrics were slanderous and constituted an invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. But Roth, who was joined by U.S. Circuit Judges Maryanne Trump Barry and Walter K. Stapleton, said, “The reference to Tucker as a ‘muthaf-a’ is part of an expression of opinion — Shakur’s opinion that Tucker was out to hurt rather than help her fellow African-Americans.” As a result, Roth said, Tucker had no case because “an expression of opinion, without more, is not defamatory. This is so even when a ‘vigorous epithet’ is used in reference to a public figure such as Tucker.” In a footnote, Roth said that Tucker “is undoubtedly a public figure” because she has held several public posts including secretary of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and chair of the Democratic National Committee Black Caucus. Yesterday’s opinion is a victory for Afeni Shakur’s attorneys, Alan J. Davis and Stephen J. Kastenberg of Philadelphia-based Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll and Donald N. David, Beth W. Fischbein, Kenneth G. Schwartz and William A. Zolla II of Fischbein Badillo Wagner & Harding in New York. Also emerging victorious are Tower Records’ attorneys, Mari M. Shaw and J. Kevin Fee of Philadelphia-based Morgan Lewis & Bockius; Interscope Inc.’s lawyer, David W. Ichel of Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in New York; and Death Row Records’ lawyer, David E. Kenner of Encino, Calif.

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