My defamation lawsuit against the LA Times, Tronc, editorial page editor Nick Goldberg, ombudsman Deidre Edgar and (since fired) publisher Austin Beutner resumes at 9 am on Wednesday, June 21st in LA Superior Court.
My struggle began when Times fired me in 2015 as their cartoonist two years ago and falsely accused me of lying in an opinion blog. Even though there was no evidence that I had lied, and what evidence there was backed me up, they worked hard to try to destroy my reputation. As we came to learn as the result of my lawsuit, they did this as a favor to LAPD Police Chief Charlie Beck, whom I had mocked in my cartoons. (The Times still has never admitted to its readers that Beck and Beutner orchestrated these events at a secret closed-door meeting.)
At the time, the LAPPL police union owned a large amount of stock in the parent company of the Times.
Knowing that they behaved contrary to basic rules of journalistic ethics and in violation of a number of laws, Times lawyers have deployed a variety of sleazy stalling tactics to try to make my case go away.
1. They filed an anti-SLAPP motion against me. Anti-SLAPP motions were designed to protect poor individuals from big corporations out to suppress their free speech, but Tronc – a $500 million company – is using one against me, their former $300/week cartoonist.
If they prevail, the Times told the court they want me to pay at least $300,000 for their legal fees!
2. They invoked an obscure statute that discriminates against out-of-state plaintiffs, asking the judge to make me pay (by posting 100% bond in advance) the $300,000 in order for the case to proceed so they could collect if they win anti-SLAPP.
The judge knocked it down to $75,000, which is still outrageous since I can’t even have my case heard before I post it. Fortunately, hundreds of people contributed to my GoFundMe campaign, and I posted the $75,000 on time, allowing the case to move forward. The Times is no doubt disappointed that their efforts to bankrupt me have not yet succeeded.
3. The Times’ anti-SLAPP motion violated court rules limiting the length of such documents to 15 pages. Theirs was 27.5 pages. Did the Times lawyer do this on purpose to rack up more legal fees that I might have to pay if I lose anti-SLAPP? It’s hard to believe that a high-powered lawyer like her made such a rookie error.
Lawyers told me they expected the judge to throw out the Times’ anti-SLAPP on the page count technicality; instead, she scheduled a do-over. This time, the judge ordered, both sides must limit their motions to 20 pages, no footnotes allowed. The first of those new motions will be considered June 21st.
4. The Times has refiled their second anti-SLAPP. It’s 20 pages, but with footnotes. Also, they use quotes from our response to their first anti-SLAPP, which they only get to do because they violated court rules in the first place. At a certain point, you have to wonder whether they’re doing this on purpose.
We now have a new judge. The previous one retired recently.
Based on statutes and case law, however, my attorneys and I believe we will prevail on anti-SLAPP and the case itself.
1. There will be three anti-SLAPP hearings: June 21, June 28 and July 6.
2. The judge will issue his ruling.
3. If we win, the Times will no doubt appeal to the Court of Appeals, incurring more fees I might have to pay. If they win, we will appeal.
4. The Court of Appeals will issue its ruling. If we win, we will file a “SLAPP back” motion requesting to be awarded our attorneys’ fees.
If we lose, the case is over and the Times will be awarded hundreds of thousands of dollars. I will have to pay it, which I cannot. So I will go bankrupt.
5. If we win anti-SLAPP, THEN the case actually begins.
6. We would begin “discovery.” We can subpoena materials from the Times and depose them under oath, and vice versa. Unless sealed by a judge, the materials become public records under California law. I’m sure there are many interesting communications to be found.
7. A trial would be scheduled
8. Appeals to the Court of Appeals, California Supreme Court and US Supreme Court are theoretically possible.
These events would be disrupted in the event that the Times accepts a guilty verdict or there were to be a settlement (which, for me, would necessarily have to be public). To date, the Times has not approached us to discuss anything.
Thank you so much for your awesome support and interest in my case!