Storms v. Action Wisconsin

NOTE: The information and commentary contained in this database entry are based on court filings and other informational sources that may contain unproven allegations made by the parties. The truthfulness and accuracy of such information is likely to be in dispute. Information contained in this entry is current as of the last event mentioned in the "Description" section below; additional proceedings might have taken place in this matter since this event.

Summary

Threat Type: 

Lawsuit

Date: 

02/23/2004

Status: 

Concluded

Location: 

Wisconsin

Disposition: 

Dismissed (total)

Verdict or Settlement Amount: 

N/A
Lousiana preacher Grant E. Storms sued gay rights organization Action Wisconsin and its executive director Christopher Ott for defamation after Action Wisconsin issued an online press release on its website that said Storms had advocated the murder of gays in a speech... read full description
Parties

Party Receiving Legal Threat: 

Action Wisconsin, Inc.; Christopher Ott

Type of Party: 

Individual

Type of Party: 

Individual
Organization

Location of Party: 

  • Wisconsin

Location of Party: 

  • Wisconsin

Legal Counsel: 

Tamara B. Packard, Lester A. Pines
Description

Lousiana preacher Grant E. Storms sued gay rights organization Action Wisconsin and its executive director Christopher Ott for defamation after Action Wisconsin issued an online press release on its website that said Storms had advocated the murder of gays in a speech he made in October 2003 at the International Conference on Homo-Fascism.  Storms sued in Wisconsin state court.

Soon after Storms filed his complaint, Action Wisconsin warned Storms and his lawyer, James Donohoo, that it considered Storms' claim frivolous, as Storms was a public figure and would have to prove Action Wisconsin had acted with "actual malice" in publishing the press release.  Action Wisconsin added that if Storms and Donohoo did not withdraw their claim, it would seek sanctions against them.

Storms and Donohoo did not withdraw their claim, however, so Action Wisconsin moved for summary judgment and for sanctions against Storms and Donohoo.  The court granted both motions, finding that Storms's claims were frivolous as Storms lacked sufficient legal and factual basis to bring them.  As a result, the court awarded Action Wisconsin more than $87,000 in costs and attorney's fees.

Donohoo appealed the court's decision to award costs and attorney's fees to Action Wisconsin, arguing that the court erred in determining there was insufficient basis to warrant Storms's claims. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals agreed and overturned the award of costs and attorney's fees. 

Action Wisconsin then appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which ruled that the Court of Appeals had erred in overturning the trial court's decision.  The high court reinstated the award to Action Wisconsin of costs and attorney's fees. 

Donohoo later moved to vacate the decision because one of the justices received campaign contributions from some of Action Wisconsin's board members and one of its attorneys, and had attended the event of another gay rights group, which Donohoo claimed had ties to Action Wisconsin.  The high court denied Donohoo's motion however, ruling that those connections did not disqualify the justice from participating in the case.

Details

Content Type: 

  • Text

Publication Medium: 

Website

Subject Area: 

  • Defamation
Court Information & Documents
CMLP Information (Private)

Priority: 

1-High

Threat Source: 

Google News

CMLP Notes: 

Files on Westlaw: 2007 WL 1544593 (wis. court of appeals decision re: attorney's fees); 2008 WL 2278636 (wis. supreme decision re: attorney's fees)

Source: Westclips

The original trial docket is available online. I intentionally left out the appeals and supreme courts info in the "Court and Lawyers" section, as the appeals weren't about the legal threat itself. (AAB)