Charles Harder Sues Yet Again: Files Highly Questionable Lawsuit Against Jezebel

from the slappity-slapp-slapp dept

Oh, Charles Harder. Fresh off losing the lawsuit he filed against us on behalf of Shiva Ayyadurai, lawyer Charles Harder is right back at it. The NY Post was the first to report that Harder has filed a lawsuit in New York state court against Gizmodo Media Group and two of its employees: Anna Merlan and Emma Carmichael. Gizmodo Media Group is basically what used to be Gawker. After Harder sued Gawker into bankruptcy and Univision bought many of Gawker’s assets, it put them into a new entity called GMG.

Obviously, we have some opinions concerning Harder and his increasingly long list of lawsuits against media properties — so feel free to take our analysis with however many grains of salt are necessary — but this appears to be a pretty clear SLAPP suit designed to create more chilling effects on free speech. There are many, many reasons why this lawsuit is almost certainly a total and complete dud. But, that doesn’t mean it won’t be costly and annoying for GMG (even with Univision’s help) and the two named individual defendants. The lawsuit is a response to an article on the site Jezebel entitled Inside Superstar Machine, Which Ex-Members Say Is a Cult Preying on New York?s Creative Women. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Greg Scherick and his company “International Scherick” — which is also called “Superstar Machine.”

You can read the article, written by Merlan, which details claims by multiple young women about how they were a part of an organization of sorts, run by Scherick, that was part motivational group and part… something else. Multiple women are quoted using the word “cult.” Here’s one clip, quoting a woman named “Rose”:

?It seemed scary. Like something that somebody who doesn?t have a degree or an ability to diagnose people should be doing to someone. And I really wanted her out, too. I freaked out and called her boyfriend and was like, ?We?re in a cult. You need to get [her] out.? And she called me and screamed at me and told me I was never allowed to call her boyfriend.?

The article is detailed, and has many sources. The actual lawsuit doesn’t seem to have much of a chance for a whole host of reasons. Many of the statements appear to be statements of opinion. Things like using the word “cult” have been held in other cases not to be defamatory. Not only that, but for the most part, the article was quoting others giving their opinions on International Scherick and “Superstar Machine.”

There are some other problems with the lawsuit as well. It claims that the article was published by GMG on September 10, 2016. This is important, because New York has a one year statute of limitations on defamation. But… what’s the date on the article?

Why yes, you’re right. It says May 10th. That’s past the statute of limitations. What Harder is trying to argue is that when Univision took over Jezebel following the purchase of Gawker’s assets, it “republished” the item. September 10th, 2016 was day that the deal apparently became official. Except… that’s not how this works at all. New York, like many states, has a “single publication rule” which says that the statute of limitations is from the original publication. There are some narrow exceptions where “republication” can restart the clock, but changing owners doesn’t appear to be one.

Some other oddities in the lawsuit: despite claiming that Scherick was a bigtime “life coach” who nicknamed himself “International” and runs an organization called “Superstar Machine,” Harder tries to argue that Scherick is not a public figure, and therefore a lower standard of defamation should apply.

Separately, as we’ve seen in other Harder lawsuits, the complaint tries to smear the reporter and the editor — repeatedly focusing on (for example) comments made by the editor Emma Carmichael in the Hulk Hogan case against Gawker (again, where Harder represented Hogan). Eric Turkewitz, a NY-based lawyer we’ve quoted before, calls the complaint “odd” and points out that the only way he sees that Harder can win the overall case is if Harder/Scherick can prove the quotes in the article (listed in paragraph 27 of the complaint) were fabricated. And that’s only if they can actually make the “republication” claim stick.

But, again, as we know all too well, sometimes the point of these sorts of defamation lawsuits appears to be more about creating a chilling effect for reporters and dragging them through the legal system. And, once again, this is why it’s absolutely crazy that New York still has a very weak anti-SLAPP law. It’s the media capital of the world, and it’s incredible that the state has failed to update its anti-SLAPP laws to prevent these sorts of lawsuits.

Filed Under: , , , , , , ,
Companies: gawker, gizmodo media group, superstar machine, univision

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Comments on “Charles Harder Sues Yet Again: Files Highly Questionable Lawsuit Against Jezebel”

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25 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Charles Harder - the new troll

“Charles Harder is the lawyer that makes other lawyers cringe and hold their nose.”

ha ha ha… is that suppose to be a new lawyer joke?

Lawyers don’t cringe, they just see if there is money in it for them. There are just some things in the world you can never become without having sold at least some small portion of your soul and lawyers are one of them.

Any legal system so complex that it requires lawyers to navigate, is not one of justice or service to its people.

shayne says:

Re: Charles Harder - the new troll

Reminds me of a comment a pest sprayer said to me when he discovered the small “german” cockaroaches that had taken up in my shed “These are the cockaroaches that give the other cockaroaches a bad nane” (And by god where those things hard to get rid of. Took a few runs before we worked out the neonicatinoid pastes are basically kryptonite to those things)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: New York legislature - seems nothing much has changed over the years. lol!

From the musical “1776”:

“Mr. Secretary, New York abstains–courteously.” (Morris)
“Mr. Morris! What in hell goes on in New York?” (Hancock)
“I’m sorry, Mr. President, but the simple fact is that our legislature has never sent us explict instructions on anything.” (Morris)
Never? That’s impossible!” (Hancock)
“Have you ever been present at a meeting of the New York legislature? They
speak very fast and very loud and nobody pays any attention to anybody else,
with the result that nothing ever gets done……” (Morris)

Lewis Morris, New York delagate (aka The Courteous Abstainer), to John Hancock, President of the Congress (aka The Fly Swatting Champion from Boston)

Roger Strong (profile) says:

I wrote in the Charles Harder / Shiva Ayyadurai Case Dismissed thread:

It takes mere dishonesty to claim other peoples’ inventions as your own. But it takes a special blend of stupidity, self-denial, dishonesty and arrogance to do it for an invention whose real development is well documented, AND to keep doing it for years after your lies are publicly shot down.

That special blend makes for lucrative clients for dishonest attorneys to loot.

A guy who claims to be a bigtime "life coach" for women, who nicknamed himself "International" and runs an organization called "Superstar Machine", has that special blend.

This is about of looting this sort of person. Techdirt and Jezebel are collateral damage.

Anonymous Coward says:

I'm looking forward to your hit pieces on Harder and Ayyadurai.

Original reporting, not just waiting until can re-write someone else’s work.

It’s not fear of another suit that stops you, it’s that would be actual work. All you do is sit and read off the net, figure out how to slant so fits your bias, and type.


You still have "First Amendment Fight" notice up: why?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm looking forward to your hit pieces on Harder and Ayyadurai.

Still smarting from the Prenda “they will appeal and they will win” I see. Try making an actual thoughtful comment instead of shitting out all the sour grapes you eat. By the way was Hamilton any good in the sack? I hear he gave your TOR exit node a real workout. šŸ˜‰

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I'm looking forward to your hit pieces on Harder and Ayyadurai.

That’s rich coming from the jackass who openly admits he doesn’t read the articles here.

The “First Amendment Fight” notice is still up because Shiva intends on appealing. The notice will probably go off once judges have told Shiva to definitively go jump in a lake.

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