Lawsuit Update

It has been a while since I filled you in on what’s going on with my lawsuit, so if you’ve been wondering, here’s what’s what.

The original judge in my case, Teresa Sanchez-Gordon, retired. That was a bummer for me because she seemed to understand the case and its importance, and for the most part, she ruled in my favor. LA Superior Court handed the LA Times’ anti-SLAPP motion against me over to a temporary substitute judge, a retired gentleman brought back for a few months in order to help the court dig out of its formidable backlog. Judge Joseph Kalin informed us that he had over 500 cases on his docket. He also said that he had read all of the documents in my case over the previous week. Considering that they are over a foot high and amount to thousands of pages, call me skeptical. No human being could possibly handle all that work.

Adding to the challenge was getting sabotaged by my own lawyers. Rather than send a seasoned litigator to argue the crucial anti-SLAPP hearings (of which three were scheduled), Shegerian & Associates sent a junior associate just a few of years out of law school to argue against Times attorney Kelli Sager, a veteran litigator with decades of experience at a major white-shoe law firm that represents giant corporations trying to crush workers. She was timid, unprepared and failed to fight back when Sager said things that simply weren’t true. Unsurprisingly, the judge ruled against me.

With two more hearings to go, I asked the firm to send out the litigator that we had agreed upon. Carney Shegerian responded with a Notice of Termination. That’s right: my own lawyer fired me! It’s not because I was rude or anything like that. I wasn’t. I don’t know why he did it but I do know that other lawyers tell me that this kind of behavior, dumping a client right before a crucial hearing, is highly unethical.

I managed to find a new attorney in time for the next hearing, but Judge Kalin refused to grant me a continuance to allow my new lawyer time to familiarize himself with my case, and forced me to do my own oral argument. Naturally, the Times lawyer didn’t grant me the basic courtesy of a continuance. All along, they have been playing by scorched-earth tactics.

OK, so I did better than the junior litigator: the judge acknowledged that I had told the truth about my jaywalking arrest in 2001. Which means that the Times never should have written those two articles libeling me and that they should have retracted them and that they should have hired me back immediately. Instead, Judge Kalin ruled that, as a newspaper, the First Amendment gives the Times the right to publish anything, even lies, because of the anti-SLAPP law. Strike two.

Now we go to the Court of Appeals, where we will ask the Court to reverse Judge Kalin’s ruling.

I have a sharp new legal team for the appeal: appellate attorney Jeff Lewis and trial lawyer Roger Lowenstein. We’ve been strategizing and I feel we have a strong case base on the both the content and the spirit of the law, not to mention precedent.

We are drafting our appellate brief, which for anti-SLAPP the court considers de novo, or without consideration for the lower-court ruling. Then the Times gets to respond. Then the court sets a hearing date. Best guess right now is that the appeal will be heard in mid-2018.

If we prevail at that stage, then the case really begins: discovery, subpoenas, depositions of Times employees, etc. If we lose, that’s it. And I’ll owe the Times hundreds of thousands of dollars in THEIR legal fees. Anti-SLAPP is brutal and desperately needs reform to stop these megacorporations from abusing it to crush individual plaintiffs.

In the meantime, I will be incurring substantial costs related to the case, so if you feel inclined to support my fight against the collusion between the LA Times and LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, you can help out at http://gofundme.com/tedrall.

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13 thoughts on “Lawsuit Update

  1. Well, Minnesota recently threw out its Anti-SLAPP status as unconstitutional: https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2017/06/minnesotas-slapp-law-slapped-down-and-impact-likely-be-profound Maybe California will do the same?

    It’s a tricky thing, in that without Anti-SLAPP you can have well-funded litigants with vendettas shutting down non-profits, going after unions, etc., just by making baseless claims that impose costs of litigation defense. A fairer law would probably recognize that the underlying concern is the disparity in resources between litigants: wealthy individuals and businesses who can reasonable afford to defend themselves maybe shouldn’t have access to anti-SLAPP laws?

  2. Ted, I hope and true that you’ve filed away a humongous amounts of cartoons describing your experience with what is jokingly (?) called the US (or California or whatever) «justice» system, which you are perhaps wise to refrain from publishing just now. I hope there will be a book when they whole process is finally over – and even a few cartoons on this website, accessible to foreigners like myself….

    Good luck !…

    Henri

  3. There are official organizations authorized by state law that police attorneys and law firms. It is obvious that Shegerian & Associates violated ethics (thus, the law) with their behavior in the handling of your case. It shouldn’t cost you anything to file an official complaint with the lawyer’s guild (or whatever it might be called in California) to discipline those offenders. Such a complaint stays with them forever in official records. Look into that possibility. (I did it in Arkansas with an asshole firm that reneged on an agreement.)

    • Thank you, @derlehrer. I’ll look into that. Adding to their assholery, they slapped a lien on my case, meaning that I would have to pay them if/when I ultimately prevail against the Times.

      • Damn! They fired you as a client and want you to pay for the privilege? I don’t know how they might believe that to be just, but they have to be real ass-wipes! 🙁

      • Fair is fair. Ted has to pay their expenses if he wins; they have to pay his if he loses.

        Shegerian & Associates =>
        Shenanigans & Asshociates?

      • Ted, you need to keep in mind that a lien is not a judgment. You win your case against the LA Times and the ass-wipes have to go to court to prove that they have a right to recover “damages” — which seems to me to be very dubious and far-fetched, in view of the circumstances. I’m rooting for you! Fight ’em all, tooth & nail! 🙂

      • Thank you. Should I just let it lie until I beat the Times, or should I sue them for legal malpractice now before the statute of limitations runs out? I don’t want to sue them if I can avoid it. Do you think a judge would award them fees even though they dumped me as a client days before an important hearing?

      • > Do you think a judge would award them fees even though they dumped me as a client days before an important hearing?

        I think it depends on how their contract is written. If you want to sue them, you must show damages. Even though they screwed you over – can you put a dollar value on that?

      • @ Ted Rall –

        “Do you think a judge would award them fees even though they dumped me as a client days before an important hearing?”
        *
        I’m not an attorney, so the best person to ask would be your current legal representative. For the life of me, I cannot imagine such a thing happening. (Then again, what the hell do I know?) I suppose it depends upon the agreement you had with them going in.

        And I wasn’t suggesting a lawsuit against them, so much as just a formal legal complaint addressed to the California Bar Association, or whoever sits in judgment of ethical behavior of legal firms and individual lawyers. Again, the best person to advise you is your current counsel.

        I wish you the best of luck.

  4. Silly me, here I thought that libel With Malice Aforethought was illegal. One more childhood dream bites the dust. Buried right there between Santa Claus and Conscientious Reporting.

    Here’s to hoping Ted doesn’t die of old age before this story ends. – – = ([_]

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