Defamation

Gentle Wind Project v. Garvey

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/18/2004

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Gentle Wind Project; John "Tubby" Miller; Mary Miller; Shelbourne Miller; Carol Miller; Joan Carreiro; Pam Ranheim

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Judy Garvey; James Bergin; Rick Ross; Ian Mander; Steven Gamble; Steve Hassan; Ivan Fraser

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Maine; Superior Court, York County, Maine

Case Number: 

2:04CV00103 (Federal); No. CV-06-11 (State)

Legal Counsel: 

Jerrol Crouter; Brian Willing, Douglas Brooks, William Leete

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Settled (total)

Description: 

The Gentle Wind Project ("GWP") was a "spiritual-healing" group that produced and distributed what it characterized as "healing instruments" based on designs communicated from "the spirit world." Husband and wife, James Bergin and Judy Garvey, left the group and started a web site, "Wind of Changes," to help others make informed decisions about GWP. On their site, Bergin and Garvey recounted their experiences with GWP and described what they characterize as the group's "bizarre" belief systems and practices.

Other defendants published links to the "Winds of Change" website on their websites and exchanged information and articles with Bergin and Garvey that were critical of GWP.

GWP threatened the couple with legal action and then, in May 2004, the group and a number of its leaders filed suit against them and the other defendants in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. In January 2006, the federal court granted summary judgment for Bergin and Garvey on the plaintiffs' RICO claims and dismissed the state-law defamation claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

The GWP plaintiffs re-filed the defamation suit against Bergin and Garvey in state court in Maine. Before trial, in November 2006, the GWP plaintiffs asked for a settlement on Bergin and Garvey's terms. In the settlement agreement, the GWP plaintiffs dismissed the current suit and permanently abandoned any ability to sue Bergin and Garvey for anything the couple has written, including describing GWP as a cult, stating that the GWP "healing instruments" are "snake oil," or reporting the existence of group sexual activities, known to inner-circle members as "energy work." Under the terms of the agreement, Bergin and Garvey are expressly allowed to keep their Wind of Changes site open without any interference from GWP. Bergin and Garvey also received "an undisclosed amount" from the receiver of the GWP estate as compensation.

The federal court dismissed the action against Mr. Ross in January 2005. It also dismissed the claims against Ian Mander (from New Zealand) and refused to enter a default judgment against him. Mr. Mander was added to the settlement agreement between the GWP plaintiffs and Bergin and Garvey. Mr. Gamble and Mr. Fraser settled with the plaintiffs without payment and maintained their postings about GWP. Mr. Hassan settled with the GWP plaintiffs and removed all links to information about GWP in return for GWP removing statements made about him on its site.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Huff v. Nickolas

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/08/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Anthony Huff; Sheri Huff

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Mark Nickolas

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Kentucky Circuit Court, Jefferson County

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Material Removed
Settled (total)

Description: 

Anthony and Sheri Huff, a Kentucky businessman and his wife, sued Mark Nickolas, a political blogger, for defamation after he implied in a blog post that they bought dismissal of an alleged felony indictment by contributing to the Kentucky Republican Party and Republican candidates.

No details on the lawsuit are available, but it appears that Nickolas removed the allegedly defamatory post, and that the suit is no longer pending.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

TO DO: further research required; get court documents

confirmed not pending (at least not listed in KY court's database of pending cases), but unable to locate any confirmation of that blog post's facts other than that these statements were made on the blog and subsequently removed; although blog post and MLRC refer to an article from the Louisville Courier-Journal, no article is available on their website or in their archives.

Jurisdiction: 

Glock v. Pilz

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/06/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Glock, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Peter Pilz; Der Standard Verlagsgelsellschaft MBH; Verein zur Forderung der Friends Economy; Thomas Sperlich; Reinhard Pickl-Herk; Petra Freiler; Bronner Online AG; Thomas Kunrath

Type of Party: 

Large Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Indiana Superior Court, Clark County; United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

Case Number: 

10D02-0604-CT-43 (state); 4:06-CV-0072-JDT-WGH (federal)

Legal Counsel: 

Bradley Hasler, Daniel Byron, Scott Leisz

Publication Medium: 

Print
Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)
Settled (partial)

Description: 

On February 21, 2006, Austrian politician Peter Pilz posted comments on his (Austrian) website about Glock pistols making their way to the black market in Turkey. Der Standard, a German-language newspaper, reported on Pilz's statements in its print and online editions.

On April 6, 2006, Glock sued Pilz, Der Standard, and a number of co-defendants for defamation in Indiana state court. Glock read Pilz's comments as accusing it of conspiring with Kiesler Police Supply, a company based in Indiana, to sell more pistols in Iraq than were necessary in order to supply a black market in Turkey. (The district court noted in its order dismissing the action that a more plausible reading of the article is that the Austrian government was to blame for not better managing the supply of Austrian pistols.)

On May 9, 2006, Bronner Online AG and Der Standard removed the lawsuit to federal court. Glock settled with Sperlich, Pickl-Herk, and Freiler in June 2006.

In March 2007, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana decided the defendants motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. It concluded that to exercise personal jurisdiction over the Austrian defendants would violate the Due Process Clause. Summing up the situation well, the court wrote:

As an aside on the international context, the court notes how extraordinary and problematic finding personal jurisdiction in this situation would be. Pilz is a member of the Austrian Parliament writing about what is arguably a matter of policy of the Austrian government; Der Standard is a newspaper that reported on Pilz's views. Today almost everything written down ends up on the internet in one form or another. Does the Due Process Clause allow the internet to transform American courts into worldwide speech regulators every time an American entity gets mentioned? That is doubtful, but essentially what Plaintiff argues.

The court dismissed the action with respect to all the remaining defendants.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: create entry for threatening letter -- see page 3 of Order on Motion to Dismiss

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Welch v. Nyberg

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

09/06/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Bill Welch; Emanuel Welch

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Carl Nyberg

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Case Number: 

2005-L-009752

Legal Counsel: 

Latham & Watkins LLP

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Blogger Carl Nyberg filed a complaint against local school board president and lawyer Emanuel Welch with the state Attorney Registration and Discipline Commission, claiming that Welch violated conflict of interest rules by voting to hire his brother Bill Welch as a custodian at Proviso Township high schools without disclosing that he (Emanuel) had represented his brother in a criminal action for drug possession a few years earlier. Nyberg then wrote about his complaint and the drug charge on his blog, Proviso Probe.

In September 2005, the Welch brothers filed a lawsuit for defamation in Illinois state court. They voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice in December 2005.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: further research needed; get court documents

Jurisdiction: 

St. George Corrective Vision v. Kantis

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

09/12/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

St. George Corrective Vision; Nicholas Caro

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Dean Andrew Kantis

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois

Case Number: 

2005-L-009942

Legal Counsel: 

Leahy Eisenberg & Fraenke

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Dean Kantis published critical statements about St. George Corrective Vision and his opthamologist Nicholas Caro on his website, Life After Lasik.

In September 2005, St. George and Caro sued Kantis for defamation and false light invasion of privacy, claiming, among other things, that Kantis defamed them by stating that Caro had used an "illegal laser" to perform his laser eye surgery and that Caro was a "butcher" and a "one stop chop shop doctor." The lawsuit requests compensatory and punitive damages and an injunction.

Update:

4/21/06 - Kantis filed a motion to dismiss.

7/13/06 - Court issued Agreed Order to dismiss the case.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Save-A-Life Foundation v. Baratz

Date: 

05/03/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Save-A-Life Foundation

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Robert Baratz; Jason Haap; Peter Heimlich; WLS-TV; American Broadcasting Co.; Chuck Goudie

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Media Company

Court Type: 

Federal
State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois; United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois

Case Number: 

2007-CH-12022 (Cook County); 1:08-cv-06022 (N.D. Illinois)

Legal Counsel: 

Stitt Klein & Daday (for Baratz, Haap, and Heimlich), Jenner & Block (for WLS-TV, American Broadcasting Co., Chuck Goudie)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Pending

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

In May 2007, the Save-A-Life Foundation sued three critics of Henry Heimlich and his famous first-aid procedure, the Heimlich maneuver. Among the defendants is Peter Heimlich, Henry's son, who maintains the website "Outmaneuvered." The other defendants are Robert Baratz, an official of the National Council Against Health Fraud, and Jason Haap, who runs the Cincinnati Beacon Web site.

The foundation's complaint included a claim for defamation and alleged that Peter Heimlich and his co-defendants had falsely accused the foundation of teaching improper first-aid techniques, misleading donors about the group's finances, and misstating the number of people the foundation had trained.

The defendants moved to dismiss the complaint.

Update:

4/8/08 - Haap and Baratz filed a Motion to Strike Second Amended Complaint and to Dismiss.

06/26/08 - The court granted the Motion to Strike as to Save-A-Life's defamation claims (Counts II and III) but denied it as to the tortious interference claim (Count I). The court gave Save-A-Life leave to file amended Counts II and III.

07/10/08 - Save-A-Life filed amended Counts II and III.

08/08/08 - Haap and Baratz moved to strike the amended counts and to dismiss the action.

10/10/08 - The court granted the motion to strike amended Counts II and III as to defendant Haap but denied the motion as to defendant Baratz.

10/22/08 - The case was removed to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

11/20/09 - Save-A-Life moved to remand the case back to state court.  Defendants opposed. 

02/03/09 - The court denied Save-A-Life's motion to remand.

07/07/09 - Sava-A-Life filed a motion for voluntary dismissal of the case.

07/09/09- The court granted the motion for voluntary dismissal without prejudice, to be converted to a dismissal with prejudice after 7/10/2010.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Fisher & Phillips v. Does

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

06/29/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Fisher & Phillips, LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Doe(s) 1-5

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

Case Number: 

1:05CV01719

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

In June 2005, Fisher & Phillips LLP, an Atlanta employment law firm, sued 5 anonymous bloggers for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and interference with business and contractual relations. The complaint did not identify the allegedly defamatory statements with any specificity and did not name the websites on which they appeared.

After failing to identify or serve the defendants, Fisher & Phillips voluntarily dismissed the suit without prejudice in November 2005.

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Banks v. Milum

Date: 

06/16/2004

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Rafe Banks

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

David Milum

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Forsyth County Superior Court, Georgia

Case Number: 

A06A2394

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$50,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

B. Ray Woodard, Jeffrey Butler

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Verdict (plaintiff)

Description: 

David Milum, upset with his lawyer Rafe Banks over the handling of a prior case, demanded that Banks pay back the $3,000 in fees he had received. When Banks refused, Milum posted entries on the Forsyth County Political Forum, a local political website he ran, in which he accused Banks of delivering bribes to judges on behalf of drug dealers.

According to court filings in the case, on May 10, 2004, Milum posted an entry titled "Polo Fields Residents Don’t Know About Attorney Rafe Banks?" In it, Milum stated:

Are you a drug dealer when you have an ounce of cocaine in your possession worth hundreds of dollars or when you carry $25,000.00 to a Superior Court judge . . . to keep a drug dealer out of jail? Are you a drug dealer when you have a gram of methamphetamine in your possession or is it when you arrange for a lifelong drug dealer to escape doing eighteen years in federal prison for attempted murder? Polo Fields resident Rafe Banks is both. For the proof of this, visit our . . . video. . . . A cocaine dealer names Rafe Banks as being involved in bribing judges here in Forsyth County and in Federal Court in Miami. . . . Rafe Banks will never make one single move against me or this website because he knows that we have the witnesses to prove that he carried these drug dealer payoffs to [a] judge . . . .

After a reader asked whether Milum was also criticizing all lawyers who represented drug dealers, Milum responded: "No. This does not include those attorneys who simply defend drug dealers. I am speaking of transporting substantial bribes, as did attorney Rafe Banks, to those crooked judges . . . to get drug dealers off . . . ."

On June 9, 2004, according to court filings Milum posted another comment on the site entitled "Cumming Attorney Rafe Banks, Drug Dealer Bribery Mule," in which he stated:

Rafe Banks, do you still take drug dealer bribes to Forsyth County judges? How long has it been since you delivered to a judge $25,000 in cash for the release of a drug dealer? I know that you carried this kind of cash to [a] late Forsyth County Superior Court judge. . . . I have witnesses to that fact. Which judge do you pay bribes to now Rafe, since [that judge] went to hell? Is it [another] Forsyth County judge?

Later, Milum posted a comment in which he taunted his former lawyer:

Rafe, don’t you wish you had given back my three thousand dollar retainer, when I asked you too [sic], because I found out you were helping them set me up? Rafe, do you also remember how I fired your ass, not once but twice before two different judges in Forsyth County courtrooms? That had to sting, didn’t it? How about now Rafe, are you still selling out your clients, as you did me? How much of that dirty drug money did it take for you to buy that big house in Polo Fields, Rafe? . . . I’ll ask again: can you hear those courthouse doors rattling now Rafe Banks Cumming Georgia attorney, who is a drug dealer bribery mule?

On June 16, 2004, Banks’ attorney sent Milum a letter demanding that he retract his statements.  After Milum declined to do so, Banks sued him in Forsyth County Superior Court for libel.

The case went to a jury trial in January 2006.  At the trial, Milum acknowledged that in his previous interrogatories he had named nine people with personal knowledge of the bribery allegations but testified that he was not stating facts when he posted his comments online, but simply giving his opinion.  None of the witnesses, however, testified that they personally knew anything about Banks bribing anyone.

After deliberating for two days, the jury found Milum liable for defamation and awarded Banks $50,000 in general damages, but no punitive damages.  Milum gave up operating the website shortly thereafter.

A Georgia appellate court affirmed the verdict, holding that Banks was properly characterized as a limited-purpose public figure, which meant that Banks had to show that Milum "published false and defamatory statements knowing that they were false or acting in reckless disregard of their truth or falsity."  According to the appellate court, the jury sought clarification  during deliberations as to whether a public figure can be libeled and the court reiterated the definition offered by Milum's attorneys, "that a 'public figure' is one who by reason of notoriety of his achievements or the vigor and success with which he seeks the public's attention has commanded or is in a position to command a substantial amount of public interest."

Update:

3/5/2007 - The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the jury award for $50,000

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get court documents

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Waters v. Miller

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/24/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Lee Waters

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Douglas Miller

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Florida Circuit Court, Sarasota County

Case Number: 

2006CA002690SC

Legal Counsel: 

Douglas Grissinger

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

There is little information available about this case, but it appears that high school student Douglas Miller posted sexually demeaning statements alongside high school teacher Lee Waters's photograph on MySpace (it is not clear whether Miller also posted the photograph or just commented on Waters's profile). The school district suspended Miller, and Waters filed a lawsuit. We have not been able to determine the claims made in the lawsuit, but Waters may have been claiming defamation. A stipulation and order of dismissal were filed in January 2007, presumably after the parties reached a settlement.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

to-do: further research required; get court documents; revise description section

Jurisdiction: 

Veranda Partners v. Giles (Lawsuit)

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/09/2007

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Veranda Partners, LLC

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Larry Giles

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

The Circuit Court of the Ninth Judicial Circuit, in and for Orange County, Florida

Case Number: 

48-2007-CA-002622-O

Legal Counsel: 

Marc Randazza, Derek Brett - Weston, Garrou, Walters & Mooney

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Larry Giles set up a website called "The Veranda Park News," which covered events in his residential community, aesthetic issues in the neighborhood, and commentary. Allegedly, his site included statements to the effect that the housing developer of his community, Veranda Partners, misspent homeowners' dues, changed landscaping to unfairly enrich itself, and partnered with the City of Orlando in order to gain an unlawful business advantage.

Veranda Partners sent Giles a cease-and-desist letter, demanding that he take down the site. Giles apparently complied with this demand, but Veranda Partners sued him anyway, claiming that the statements on his site were defamatory. Giles's Answer raised numerous defenses, including that his statements were substantially true, his statements were covered by the fair comment privilege, and Veranda Partners' lawsuit was a SLAPP.  Giles also filed a counterclaim for violation of Florida's anti-SLAPP statute (Fla. Stat. § 720.304 (4)) and abuse of process.

Updates:

4/5/2007 - Giles filed a motion for abatement of the action.

4/23/2007 - Veranda Partners filed a motion to dismiss Giles's counterclaims, and Giles filed a motion to disqualify Veranda Partners' attorneys.

4/25/2007 - Giles filed a motion for a protective order relating to discovery matters.

5/15/2007 - The court denied Giles's motion to disqualify Veranda Partners' attorneys.

5/16/2007 - Giles filed a motion for sanctions.

8/21/2007 - Giles filed a motion for summary judgment.

4/18/2008 - Giles filed answer to the Amended Complaint.

5/27/2008 - Court granted Giles's motion to file an amended counterclaim .

6/16/2008 -  Verdanda Partners missed the deadline for filing an answer to the amended counterclaim.

8/15/2008 - Giles filed his second renewed motion for judgment on the pleadings and for summary judgment.

9/5/2008 -  Veranda Partners filed a motion for final default judgment.

9/11/2008 - Court granted Giles's renewed motion for summary judgment and entered a final default judgment against Veranda Partners on Giles's amended counterclaim.  The court awarded Giles $180,407,69 in treble damages under Florida's anti-SLAPP law, Fla. Stat. § 720.304 (4)

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

TO-DO: court documents (especially court opinions on motions); get pleadings from Marc Randazza; check status

UPDATE: Marc Randazza's blog, The Legal Satyricon, has a bunch of documents for the case (and some updates) here: http://randazza.wordpress.com/2007/04/13/an-ongoing-defamation-suit/ {MCS}

Updated 6/6/2008 with Motion for Summary Judgment update in description and as a document (JMC).  

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Scheff v. Bock

Date: 

12/31/2003

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Susan Scheff; Parents Universal Resource Experts

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Carey Bock; Ginger Warbis

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court for the 17th Judicial Circuit, Broward County, Florida

Case Number: 

CACE03022837

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$11,300,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Thomas McGowan, Philip Elberg (Warbis); Alan Kipnis (Bock)

Publication Medium: 

Forum

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Default Judgment

Description: 

Carey Bock hired Sue Scheff's company, Parents Universal Resource Experts (PURE) which provides referral services for families of teenagers with behavioral problems, to help withdraw her sons from a boarding school in Costa Rica. Scheff put Bock in touch with a consultant, who helped her remove her sons from the school. Unsatisfied with the help she recevieved, Bock posted negative comments about Scheff in a forum for parents with troubled kids called "Fornits.com."

Scheff and PURE sued Bock for defamation in Florida state court on December 31, 2003.  According to filings in the case, Bock made statements accusing Scheff of being a "crook," a "con artist," and a "fraud."

According to USA Today, Bock hired a lawyer, but he left the case when she no longer could afford to pay him. After Bock didn't offer a defense, the court entered a default judgment against her and submitted the issue of damages to the jury. On September 19, 2006, the jury awarded Scheff $11,300,000.

On July 25, 2007, the court upheld the verdict on Bock's motion to set the verdict aside.

The record is unclear, but it appears that Scheff also sued Giner Warbis, the operator of another website critical of Scheff. The court apparently dismissed the claim against Warbis.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

To Do: *** This case needs updating *** There is a docket record available in Westlaw, although I had to do a Florida search for "warbis" to turn it up. It also has a "Verdict and Settlement" document, but I can't access it. Also, I am unsure about the lawyers, the docket lists some, which I've gone with, but the linked articles list another.

to-do: need to explore whether there is another related suit. i think there was a whole saga. See in this regard (potentially) - World Wide Ass'n of Specialty Programs v. PURE, Inc, 450 F.3d 1132 (10th Cir. 2006). to-do: further research needed; get court documents

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Ligonier Ministries v. Vance

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/25/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Ligonier Ministries Inc.; Timothy Dick

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Frank Vance

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit in and for Seminole County, Florida

Case Number: 

06-CA-1669-16-K

Legal Counsel: 

None

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

Frank Vance wrote about Ligonier Ministries and its president, Timothy Dick, on his blog, Contending for the Truth. Statements on Vance's blog allegedly called into question Mr. Dick's ethics and qualifications for his position at Ligonier Ministries.

In August 2006, the Ministries and Mr. Dick sued Vance for defamation in Florida state court. The plaintiffs moved ex parte for a temporary injunction barring Vance from "publishing any false statements about them in written, verbal, or electronic form." The court apparently did not issue the injuction. Unable to find Vance in order to properly serve him, the plaintiffs voluntarily dropped their suit on September 27, 2006.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed;

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Lexington Homes v. Siskind

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/24/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Lexington Homes, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Peter Siskind

Type of Party: 

Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Circuit Court of the Sixth Judicial Circuit, in and for Pinellas/Pasco County, State of Florida Civil Division

Case Number: 

51-2004-CA-01018-WS

Legal Counsel: 

Marc Randazza - Weston, Garrou, Walters & Mooney

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Description: 

Peter Siskind hired Lexington Homes to build a house for him in Hernando County, Florida. The business relationship between Siskind and Lexington deteriorated, and Siskind created a "gripe site" (www.badLexingtonhomesinc.net). The home page of the website stated: "This website is dedicated to: all consumers who have had bad experiences using Lexington Builders (west coast of Florida) . . . and the wise, potential customers who read this and draw their own conclusions . . . This page will tell of my experiences when my wife and I contracted with Lexington Builders. Everything said on this page is my opinion, but true." On the rest of the site, Siskind outlined his criticism of Lexington's building practices and his version of the facts of the business relationship between Lexington and himself. Siskind also created a section for "stories" contributed by six Florida residents regarding their experience with Lexington Homes and provided an online form through which users could transmit information to the site.

Lexington filed a lawsuit in Florida state court. The complaint alleged defamation and tortious interference with business relationships. Siskind moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the Florida court lacked personal jurisdiction over him. The court dismissed the lawsuit, holding that exercise of personal jurisdiction over Siskind was not permissible under the due process clause fo the US Constitution. The court held that mere maintenance of a website accessible in Florida was not enought to create jurisdiction, and that the contacts tieing a defendant to the Florida must be particular and specific and not merely contacts that link the defendant with equal strength to all states. The court took into consideration the fact that Siskind did not derive any commercial benefit by doing business with Florida residents through the website.

Lexington appealed the decision. We've been told by one of the attorneys involved in the case that Lexington dropped its appeal in exchange for Mr. Siskind dropping his motion for sanctions against them.

Update:

11/2/2005 - Florida state court dismissed the lawsuit for lack of personal jurisdiction over Siskind

3/24/2006 - Lexington filed notice of appeal in the Florida Second District Court of Appeal (Case No. 2D06-1355)

Appeal withdrawn.

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Hunt v. Patten

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

03/29/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

George Hunt

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

John Patten; Sylvia Parrish

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Florida Circuit Court, Sarasota County

Case Number: 

2006 CA 002857 SC

Legal Counsel: 

Peter Baranowicz (for Patten, Withdrawn); Stanley E. Marable (for Patten); Joseph Colombo (for Parrish)

Publication Medium: 

Email
Verbal

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Former city manager of Venice, Florida, George Hunt, sued VeniceFlorida.com writer John Patten and local resident Sylvia Parrish for defamation.

Hunt had left his post in January 2004 after environmental violations by the city utilities department surfaced. Hunt claims in his lawsuit that Patten and Parrish conspired to spread lies about him to get him fired and keep him from finding another job. Specifically, Hunt claims that Patten and Parish contacted his current and potential employers and told them that he was about to be arrested for violating federal environmental laws while working as Venice city manager. He maintains that Patten and Parrish made these statements in emails and phone calls. Patten had been a longtime critic of Hunt in his writing for veniceflorida.com.

Hunt sued Patten and Parrish in Florida state court in March 2006. In March 2007, the court ordered Patten to pay approximately $2500 in attorney's fees for failing to provide documents to Hunt's attorney in a timely fashion. Patten subsequently replaced his lawyer. In July 2007, the court dismissed Patten's motion for a more definite statement, and Patten and Parrish filed their answers.

As of April 18, 2008 the case remains pending. 

Content Type: 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

Secondary case number: 582006CA0028570000SC; SB Reviewed; to-do: get case documents, but this may be hard because the Florida Circuit Court website says that court documents are only available in person

Bell v. Shah

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

04/27/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Joel Bell; Bell Management International, Inc.

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Prerak Shah; Jonathan Givony; Draftcity.com

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Court Type: 

Federal

Court Name: 

United States District Court for the District of Connecticut; United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida

Case Number: 

3:05CV00671 (Connecticut); 1:06-CV-21063 (Florida)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

$10,000.00

Legal Counsel: 

Pro Se (Givony); Thomas Norton (Shah, Draftcity.com)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Settled (total)

Description: 

Joel Bell is an agent for numerous professional athletes in the NBA and elsewhere. Prerak Shah's website, Draftcity.com, specialized in reporting on the prospects of potential draftees of the NBA. Jonathan Givony was a reporter and writer for DraftCity focusing on scouting of players. On April 9, 2005, DraftCity published an article under Givony's byline about Bell and potential draft NBA draft pick, Kelenna Azubuike. In the article, Givony wrote that "[t]he word 'scumbag' came up again and again in conversations around [Bell]," and that Bell was "widely known as an extremely sketchy agent who has no problem bribing greedy parents with offers of $50,000 or so in order to convince their kids to flush their career down the toilet."

In a subsequent article on April 12, 2005, Givony indicated that he had received many emails and phone calls in response to the April 9 article and wrote: "My comments a few days ago on Joel Bell were definitely out of line, even if there is some truth to it. This was a heat of the moment type thing, but the way it was worded was unprofessional." He also explained that "from what I've been told over the past few days, there is no way in hell that Joel Bell would have given [Azubuike] $50,000 to sign with him becausee it would take years and years for his agent to make that back based on the 4% he'll be making off either his 2nd round contract or the money he'll make in Europe."

In a third article published on April 17, 2005 under the heading "Kelenna Azubuike Clarification," Givony wrote: "I have no first hand knowledge of Mr. Bell's activities as an agent or his motivations and actions in respect to Kelenna Azubuike. Indeed, I have never met Mr. Bell. That being said, I would like to reiterate that I did indeed hear several things from numerous people that attended the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament about Mr. Bell, his actions as an agent, and his reputation in the industry."

In late April 2005, Bell and his company, Bell Management, sued Shah, DraftCity, and Givony in federal district court in Connecticut. The complaint asserted a claim for defamation and requested $25M in damages. Pursuant to a settlement agreement, Bell dropped Shah and Draftcity.com from the suit in September 2005. The action proceeded against Givony, a resident of Florida. The federal court in Connecticut held that it lacked personal jurisdiction over Givony, and transferred the case to the Southern District of Florida. See Bell v. Shah, No. 3:05CV00671, 2006 WL 860588 (D. Conn. March 31, 2006).

Bell subsequently settled with Givony, and the case was dismissed. The MLRC is reporting that the settlement involved $10,000.

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CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: get the Connecticut district court's opinion off PACER; get any documents in district court in Florida. SB has Westlaw copy of the Southern District of Florida docket, where it appears that the case has settled; check for settlement amount if available

it appears from complaint that there was a threatening letter on April 13, 2005 (see para. 19-20 of complaint) to-do: create database entry for threatening letter

Threat Source: 

MLRC

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Choy v. Boyne

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

08/17/2006

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Daniel Choy

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

James Boyne

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Connecticut Superior Court

Case Number: 

HHD-CV-06-5005693-S

Legal Counsel: 

Alan Neigher

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

James Boyne created a website about Daniel Choy, a doctor against whom his wife had won a malpractice suit. Choy initially sued for defamation in New York state court. That case was dismissed in April 2006. Choy then sued in Connecticut state court in August 2006. Boyne moved to strike the complaint and the court granted the motion. Choy amended his complaint, and Boyne answered in March 2007.

Update:

4/28/2008 - Choy withdrew the lawsuit.

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Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; to-do: find case documents; monitor status

Status updated on 6/3/2008 (AAB)

Jurisdiction: 

Boulder County Sheriff v. MySpace

Date: 

11/11/2006

Threat Type: 

Subpoena

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Boulder County Sheriff

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

MySpace

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Large Organization
Intermediary

Court Type: 

State

Publication Medium: 

Social Network

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Subpoena Enforced

Description: 

MySpace provided records subpoenaed by the Boulder County sheriff's department in a criminal libel investigation, commenced after a Colorado woman reported finding pictures of herself on MySpace under a fake profile named "Dirty Whore" that included information indicating that she was interested in meeting "men, women and/or couples who are looking to have a fun time."

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

CMLP Notes: 

SB Reviewed; there is almost nothing available on this as far as I can tell. TO-DO: Get more precise date; further research required

Jurisdiction: 

Threat Source: 

MLRC

State of Colorado v. Mink

Date: 

12/13/2003

Threat Type: 

Criminal Investigation

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

State of Colorado

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Thomas Mink

Type of Party: 

Government

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

Colorado District Court, County of Weld

Legal Counsel: 

A. Bruce Jones, Marcy Glenn, Mark Silverstein (ACLU)

Publication Medium: 

Website

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Withdrawn

Description: 

While a student at the University of Northern Colorado, Thomas Mink created a website called the "Howling Pig," which dealt with issues of current interest at the University. Among other things, the website parodied the views of a professor at the University. The professor complained to the local police department, and they commenced an investigation of Mink for violation of Colorado's criminal libel statute.

Colorado law makes it "criminal libel" to knowingly publish any statement tending to "impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defects of one who is alive, and thereby to expose him to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule." Colo.Rev.Stat. Sec. 18-13-105.

In December 2003, the Colorado police obtained a search warrant, searched Mink's house, and seized his computer and written materials.

In January 2004, Mink sued various government officials in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado, challenging the criminal libel statute as a violation of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court granted Mink a temporary restraining order prohibiting his prosecution under the criminal libel statute and requiring the district attorney to return Mink's computer and all of its contents.

Later, the district court dismissed Mink's suit when the district attorney's office disavowed an intent to prosecute. Mink appealed, and the Tenth Circuit affirmed dismissal of the constitutional challenge on standing and mootness grounds.

Update:

9/10/2009 - Mink petitioned for a rehearing en banc (in front of the entire Tenth Circuit) which was denied.  The State then petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review the case.  The Supreme Court declined and sent the remaining claims back to the district court.  The district court dismissed the remaining claims.  Mink is now appealing to the Tenth Circuit.

7/19/2010 - Tenth Circuit reversed, holding that "Because a reasonable person would not take the statements in the editorial column as statements of facts by or about Professor Peake, no reasonable prosecutor could believe it was probable that publishing such statements constituted a crime warranting search and seizure of Mr. Mink's property." 

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

Content Type: 

Yoon v. Carney

Date: 

03/22/2007

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Joanne Yoon

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Ray Carney; Sharon Bush; Jeff Schwilk

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, San Diego County

Case Number: 

GIC882238

Publication Medium: 

Email
Forum

Status: 

Pending

Description: 

Joanne Yoon filed suit against Jeff Schwilk, the founder of San Diego Minutemen, Sharon Bush, and activist Ray Carney, for defamation over comments and a photograph posted to a password-protected Yahoo group, which implied that she was a prostitute. She also challenged comments in e-mails between the two defendants and other Minutemen members.

Yoon claims that the defendants targeted her because of her work with the California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation and the ACLU, which monitored Minutemen rallies at day-labor sites. Yoon seeks $1 million in compensatory damages.

Content Type: 

Subject Area: 

Jurisdiction: 

CMLP Notes: 

Updated 6-5-08 (JMC)

06/15/2009 (LB) - judgment reached Oct. 1, 2008, but opinion does not seem to be available.  Case now on appeal to 4th Appellate District, Div. 1.  Appellant brief due June 17, 2009.

Wald v. Ford

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

05/19/2005

Party Issuing Legal Threat: 

Jeff Wald

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Luke Ford; John Does

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual

Court Type: 

State

Court Name: 

California Superior Court, Los Angeles County

Case Number: 

SC086263

Legal Counsel: 

Pro se (initially); Justin Levine

Publication Medium: 

Blog

Relevant Documents: 

Status: 

Concluded

Disposition: 

Default Judgment
Settled (total)

Description: 

Jeff Wald sued Luke Ford and anonymous defendants, claiming that Ford posted (and allowed anonymous users to post) defamatory statements about him on lukeford.net. Wald alleged that various statements and innuendo on the site caused readers to believe that he is deceptive, immoral, dishonest, and a criminal.

Ford defaulted, then moved to set aside entry of default judgment. The case settled.

Content Type: 

CMLP Notes: 

Document attachment is a word file, but it seems to work; SB Reviewed: to-do: try to get better court documents (may not be possible)

Jurisdiction: 

Subject Area: 

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