Popehat v. James Woods SLAPP-down Match; Coming Soon To A Court Near You

from the can-i-get-front-row-seats? dept

A month ago, we wrote about actor James Woods bizarrely suing a trollish Twitter user who had been mocking Woods on the site. The whole lawsuit seemed ridiculous. The specific tweet that sent Woods over the edge was this anonymous user (who went by the name “Abe List”) saying “cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting.” Soon after our post on the subject, Ken “Popehat” White posted an even better takedown entitled James Woods Punches the Muppet. That post has now been updated with a brief note that White has now been retained to defend the anonymous Twitter user. And, if that gets you excited for what to expect in the legal filings, well, you don’t have wait. As first reported by Eriq Gardner at the Hollywood Reporter, White has filed the John Doe’s opposition to Woods’ attempt to unmask the guy. And it’s worth reading.

Problem number one with Woods’ suit is laid out right at the beginning of the filing, which is that Woods himself has a habit of accusing others of using illegal drugs as well, just as Abe List did:

The filing shows other tweets from Woods that have similar words that Woods complained about Abe List using, such as “clown” and “scum.” As the filing notes, it appears Woods thinks that he can use those insults towards others, but if anyone uses them towards him, it’s somehow defamatory.

Plaintiff, an internationally known actor, is active on Twitter, a social media platform. There he is known for engaging in rough-and-tumble political debate. Plaintiff routinely employs insults like ?clown? and ?scum,? and even accuses others of drug use as a rhetorical trope….
But Plaintiff apparently believes that while he can say that sort of thing to others, others cannot say it to him. He has sued Mr. Doe for a derisive tweet referring to him as ?cocaine addict James Woods still sniffing and spouting? in the course of political back-andforth…. He also complains, at length, that Mr. Doe has called him things like a ?clown? and ?scum.? Naturally, Plaintiff has himself called others ?clown? or ?scum? on Twitter.

The filing, quite reasonably, notes that these kinds of hyperbolic claims cannot be seen as defamatory, and since there’s no legitimate claim here, there is no reason to do expedited discovery or to unmask Abe List, who is entitled to have his identity protected under the First Amendment.

Oh, and, not surprisingly, White will be filing an anti-SLAPP motion shortly, which may mean that Woods is going to have to pay for this mess that he caused.

The filing also notes that while Woods sent a subpoena to Twitter to try to seek Abe List’s identity, the company turned it down as deficient. The full two page letter is in the filing below as Exhibit B, but a quick snippet on the First Amendment concerns:

Meanwhile, Woods has already filed a response in which he is still seeking to uncover the name of Abe List, and which repeats more ridiculous claims about the whole thing, starting off with the simply false claim that the original “cocaine addict” tweet was likely seen by “hundreds of thousands” of Woods’ followers. That’s wrong. They would only see if they followed both Woods and the Abe List account, which very few did.

The filing, somewhat hilariously, claims that calling someone “a joke,” “ridiculous,” “scum” and “clown-boy” are not protected by the First Amendment. Which makes me wonder what law school Woods’ lawyers went to. Because that’s just wrong:

AL’s outrageous claim appears to be the culmination of a mlaicious on-line campaign by AL to discredit and damage Woods’ reputation, a campaign which began as early as December 2014. In the past, AL has referred to Woods with such derogatory terms as a “joke,” “ridiculous,” “scum” and “clown-boy.” … Although AL’s rantings against Woods began with childish name calling, it has escalated beyond the protections of free speech, i.e., the First Amendment does not permit anyone to falsely represent to the public that another person is addicted to an illegal narcotic.

Um… but Woods himself did exactly that (see above). It’s standard hyperbolic speech, which is clearly not defamatory especially when mocking a public figure like Woods who has a history of using the same sort of hyperbolic insults on Twitter. Even more ridiculously, Woods’ lawyers claim that by saying that the statement was a joke, that’s Abe List admitting that he knew it was a false statement. I can’t see that argument flying. I can see it backfiring big time once the anti-SLAPP motion is made.

So, what about those similar tweets made by Woods himself? His lawyers tell the court to ignore those piddly things.

… to the extent AL or TG attempt to argue that the Court should consider other statements on their Twitter accounts, or any previous tweets by Mr. Woods, the argument is a red herring. First, there is no reason any of Mr. Woods’ followers, all of whom were exposed to the defamatory statements, would even bother to investigate the speakers and/or their Twitter sites to determine if they were reliable sources. As to Mr. Woods, we are not aware of any false statements of fact made by Mr. Woods and his sometimes sharp commentary on political matters is irrelevant to the allegations here.

Except, uh, again, Woods suggested someone smoked crack, just like Abe List joked that Woods was a cocaine addict. And, again, Woods and his lawyers are just wrong that all of Woods’ followers would have seen Abe Lists’ tweets. They’re just factually wrong.

You never know how courts will rule in any particular case, no matter how ridiculous, but I have a hard time seeing how Woods gets out of this without having to pay two sets of lawyers — his own and Ken White — for filing a clearly bogus defamation case designed to shut up (and identify) an anonymous Twitter critic. No matter what, James Woods may not be a cocaine addict, but he has made it clear that he can dish it out but can’t take it back when people make fun of him. What a clown.

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Comments on “Popehat v. James Woods SLAPP-down Match; Coming Soon To A Court Near You”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Not only that, but he is supposed to have an IQ of like 180 and be wicked smart (or so they say).
I like his acting, but it seems the arrogance of his roles are carrying over in real life.
Besides, isn’t his lawyer opening him up to all sorts of things here? I don’t know Twitter very well, but from what I understand, unlike Abe List’s Tweets, the ones that JW made IS seen by millions, right?

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

… to the extent AL or TG attempt to argue that the Court should consider other statements on their Twitter accounts, or any previous tweets by Mr. Woods, the argument is a red herring. First, there is no reason any of Mr. Woods’ followers, all of whom were exposed to the defamatory statements, would even bother to investigate the speakers and/or their Twitter sites to determine if they were reliable sources.

So, as far as I can parse that, Woods is claiming that his Twitter followers have learned through experience that Woods uses hyperbole, but those same followers will assume that some random person they’ve never encountered doesn’t use hyperbole, and will further assume that said random person is a reliable source.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yeah, gotta love that argument, I just have to wonder if Woods realizes that his lawyer is basically arguing that he’s not nearly as important and/or credible as he thinks he is.

“Your Honor, my client’s followers know that nothing he says is to be taken seriously, so clearly anything he says can be dismissed as hyperbole or empty mumbling. This random twitter account user on the other hand is much more credible, making any statements of their’s much more likely to be taken at face value, and therefor damaging.”

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What interests me is that Mr Woods appears to be claiming that such statements constitute defamation even if they are clearly hyperbole and/or opinion.

Given that Mr Woods has made such a claim in an official filing, could someone Woods said such things about now sue WOODS for defamation on the grounds that Woods knew his statements were defamatory despite being hyperbole?

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Dirtbags vs Solid Acting Careers

He is a credit to the film industry itself.

Based on the little I have heard about the film industry, this could be a damning condemnation of Mr Woods’ suit. The film industry appears from this great distance to be filled with cocaine consumers. If the plaintiff is much involved in that industry, to the point of being deemed an exemplar, he could well be a cocaine consumer.

I am informed that cocaine does not make its consumers smarter or wittier. Neither does it make the consumers more attractive to the appropriate sex except to the extent that a particular member of the appropriate sex may also be seeking cocaine.

All of which leads to an interesting question. If this gets past the anti-SLAPP motion, does Mr Woods get to pee in a cup? Normally I would not expect that to be legitimate discovery, but it appears that his lawyer may have opened the door.

Anonymous Coward says:

Typically, when you get your dick stuck in a woodchipper (and after the usual thought processes are exhausted – something along the lines of “What the HELL was I thinking getting my dick near a woodchipper?”), a normal, rational response would be: find the OFF switch, have a drink and tell people you were merely curious about, or mildly attracted to, woodchippers, and thereafter refuse to answer any calls from the woodchipper.

Mr. Woods, being the creative, superlative celebrity that he is, chooses a different tack: hire a lawyer to yell at the woodchipper. But Mr. Woods, there’s a point you may be overlooking: despite what your legal counsel tells you, your dick is still caught in a woodchipper. It seems to me – and please correct me if I’m wrong about this – won’t you have to, at some point, tell your lawyer to SHUT UP AND GET MY DICK OUT OF THIS FUCKING WOODCHIPPER?

Anonymous Coward says:

you know, reading this i was reminded of a bit of advice given by one of my high school football coaches many years ago.  he said we should take care not to be alone with that guy who complains way too much about gays.

it’s interesting to me that whatever abuse apparently slid past mr clown not causing a stir until cocaine-user was said.  that’s very interesting.  are we in for a jimmy swaggart moment?

Anonymous Coward says:

James Woods is a respected actor, there is no doubt of that, but acting isn’t why he should be respected. According to Radar Online, James Woods, who at the age of 66 years at the time had a 20 year old girlfriend.

Now that is impressive. Of course, the issue that she had been arrested for felony drug possession had to hurt.

But still, a 66 year old guy with a 20 year old girlfriend? Hats off to him.

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