“Mr. Trump requests that the Court consider the conduct and statements of Plaintiff and her counsel, and the benefits they have received from maintaining a dispute against Mr. Trump, and enter a sanctions award of an amount equal to or greater than the fee award”
Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels, sued Donald Trump for defamation over Trump’s assertion that Daniels’ lied about supposed threats against her. She is represented in the case by Democrat presidential hopeful Michael Avenatti.
Those alleged threats were covered by us on April 17, 2018, Internet Works Feverishly to Identify Sketch of Stormy Daniel’s Alleged Threatener After Her Attorney Posts Reward Offer:
Stormy Daniels the (former?) porn star who claims Trump paid her $130,000 to keep quiet about their affair now claims she was threatened in 2011.
Daniels claims the “well dressed” man approached her in a parking lot and told her to “Leave Mr. Trump alone.”
Trump called the claim a “total con job”:
The tweet to which Trump was responded pointed out that the sketch of the alleged perp looked like Danielsex husband:
Some people (like us, jokingly) speculated it looked like Avenatti:
The Court threw out the lawsuit, finding Trump’s commentary was protected by the First Amendment.
It’s important that Trump moved to dismiss, and the court granted dismissal, under the Texas Anti-SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation] Statute because that is where Daniels resided, even though the case was in California and Trump is a New Yorker. The court reasoned:
Under New York’s choice-of-law principles, the law of the situs of the injury generally applies to a tort lawsuit involving diverse parties. See Stoyanovskiy v. Amerada Hess Corp., 286 A.D.2d 727, 728 (2001). However, in this day and age, with the publication of statements in online fora, the tort of defamation often involves a plaintiff injured in several jurisdictions. For multistate defamation actions, where the situs of the injury may be in multiple jurisdictions, “New York applies the law of the state with the most significant interest in litigation,” which generally is the state where a plaintiff is domiciled. See Lee v. Bankers Trust Co., 166 F.3d 540, 545 (2d. Cir. 1999). Plaintiff alleges in the Complaint that Ms. Clifford is a “resident of the State of Texas,” (Compl. ¶ 1), and conceded during argument on September 24, 2018 that Ms. Clifford is domiciled in Texas. (See Transcript of Proceedings at 11: 7.) Therefore, this Court applies Texas law to Plaintiff’s allegations of defamation and Defendant’s Special Motion To Dismiss/Strike. [footnote omitted]
So when the court threw out the lawsuit, it did so under the Anti-SLAPP statute, which grants the successful defendant attorney’s fees, subject to a submission of proof:
Having granted the Special Motion and denied Plaintiff leave to amend, the Court finally holds that Defendant is entitled to attorney’s fees. Texas law is unambiguous that “the TCPA requires anaward of ‘reasonable attorney’s fees’ to the successful movant.” Sullivan v. Abraham, 488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016). “A ‘reasonable’ attorney’s fee ‘is one that is not excessive or extreme, but rather moderate or fair.'” Id. (quoting Garcia v. Gomez, 319 S.W.3d 638, 642 (Tex.2010)).
Trump just submitted his motion for attorney’s fees. (h/t Brad Heath Twitter)
Trump makes is repeated reference to how Daniels and Avenatti exploited the case:
Defendant Donald J. Trump (“Mr. Trump”) hereby moves for reimbursement of his attorneys’ fees, and for monetary sanctions, after prevailing on his Motion to Dismiss/Strike Plaintiff’s defamation claim (the “Motion to Strike”), and obtaining a complete dismissal of this action with prejudice. Mr. Trump seeks reimbursement of fees in the amount of $341,559.50 plus any additional fees incurred in connection with preparing a Reply and attending a hearing on this Motion. A detailed breakdown of these fees is attached as Exhibit A to the concurrently filed declaration of Charles J. Harder. These fees were necessary and reasonable for the reasons discussed herein.
* * *
Plaintiff never should have filed this action in the first place. This Court has effectively so stated on at least two occasions. At the hearing on the Motion to Strike, the Court stated: “I’m troubled that there’s a claim here for defamation in the first instance.” [ECF No. 34, p. 28:5-6.]1
In the Order granting the Motion to Strike, the Court stated: “Plaintiff seeks to use her defamation action to engage in a ‘fishing expedition’ concerning the conclusory allegations in the Complaint. The Court will not permit Plaintiff to exploit the legal process in this way.” [ECF No. 36, p. 12.] Plaintiff filed this action, not because it had any merit, but instead for the ulterior purposes of raising her media profile, engaging in political attacks against the President by herself and her attorney (who has appeared on more than 150 national television news interviews attacking the President and now is exploring a run for the Presidency himself in 2020), and to depose Mr. Trump and take discovery.
* * *
Any questions regarding the reasonableness of Mr. Trump’s fees should be resolved in favor of Mr. Trump. This action is virtually unprecedented in American legal history. Plaintiff not only brought a meritless claim for defamation against the sitting President of the United States, but she also has engaged, along with her attorney, in massive national publicity relating to the case and the related Dec. Relief Action, which has included three national television appearances by Plaintiff, more than 150 by her attorney, Plaintiff’s publication of a book, and Plaintiff’s national tour of live entertainment establishments, for four-times her normal performance fee.
This Motion also seeks reasonable sanctions against Plaintiff, which are mandatory under the TCPA, in an amount within the Court’s discretion that is sufficient to deter Plaintiff from bringing similar actions in the future. See Section IV.C., infra. Here, a substantial sanctions award is appropriate given the conduct of Plaintiff and her attorney in connection with this action, and also the benefits (financial and otherwise) that Plaintiff has received from maintaining this public litigation against Mr. Trump. Plaintiff should receive no benefit whatsoever from having filed this meritless action. Therefore, she should be required to pay to Mr. Trump monetary sanctions in an amount equal to or greater than the fee award.
This action is Plaintiff’s second meritless defamation action. She filed her first action against Michael Cohen on March 26, 2018, for which Mr. Cohen responded by filing a special motion to strike pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP law. [ECF Nos. 14, 31 (Dec. Relief Action).] Plaintiff filed this action thirty-five (35) days later. Plaintiff and her lawyer heavily publicized both lawsuits and derived benefits therefrom. The Court should deliver a clear message that meritless defamation actions are unacceptable, should never happen again, and will yield her no benefits.
So Avenatti is squarely in the center of Daniels’ potential liability to Trump.
Plaintiff has capitalized on her dispute with Mr. Trump, embarking on a nationwide tour of adult live entertainment venues for which she admittedly is being paid at least four times her normal appearance fee, an extensive publicity campaign against Mr. Trump, which has included appearances on 60 Minutes, The View and Saturday Night Live, and the publication of a book. [ECF No. 28-1, Exs. B-E, J, P-Q; ECF No. 87-1 (Dec. Relief Action), Ex. H.]
The conduct of Plaintiff and her counsel suggest they will continue to bring similar claims and meritless lawsuits against Mr. Trump, if sufficient sanctions do not deter them from doing so….
Accordingly, Mr. Trump requests that the Court consider the conduct and statements of Plaintiff and her counsel, and the benefits they have received from maintaining a dispute against Mr. Trump, and enter a sanctions award of an amount equal to or greater than the fee award, to deter Plaintiff from bring similar meritless actions in the future.
That presents a number of problems, not the least of which is that Avenatti arguably has a conflict of interest as to representation.
So will Stormy turn on Avenatti?
If so, she may have to get in line.
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