James Woods Saved By A Question Mark, But Still A Total Hypocrite

from the defamation-for-thee dept

Karma works in funny ways sometimes. Over the past few years, we covered how actor James Woods filed a totally ridiculous defamation lawsuit against an anonymous internet troll who made some hyperbolic statements about Woods — statements that were little different than what Woods had said about others. The case never went anywhere… because the defendant died. But Woods gloated over the guy’s death, which just confirmed what a horrible, horrible person Woods appears to be.

So, while we found the karmic retribution of someone else then suing Woods for defamation on similarly flimsy claims noteworthy, we still pointed out just how weak the case was and noted that, as much of an asshole as Woods was in his case against his internet troll, he still deserved to prevail in the case against him. And prevail he has. The case has been tossed out on summary judgment. While the opinion also details Woods continuing to do the assholish move of trying to avoid being served (his lawyers refused to give an address where he could be served and Woods refused to have his lawyer waive service requirements — which is usually a formality in these kinds of things). Not surprisingly, the judge is not impressed by Woods hiding out from the process server:

It certainly appears that Woods is fully aware of the lawsuit, has retained a lawyer to represent him in this matter, has received a copy of the Complaint (as evidenced by his responding Answer), and is willing to engage with the substance of the allegations (as evidenced by his Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings seeking a decision on the merits). His simultaneous refusal to waive service, to authorize his lawyer to accept service, or to provide his lawyer with an address where he may be served smacks of intentional evasion, a well-settled ground for denying dismissal….


Woods denies he engaged in any ?gamesmanship? because he twice notified Boulger that service was not yet complete, and because Boulger could have further attempted service through different means, such as ?by personally delivering a copy of the summons and complaint to the defendant personally, leaving a copy at the defendant?s dwelling or usual place of abode with someone of suitable age and discretion who resides there, or delivering a copy to an agent authorized to receive service of process? …. But Woods himself made all of these methods impossible by refusing to provide his lawyer with an address where he may be served or to authorize his lawyer to accept service on his behalf.

Thankfully, the court isn’t letting the big Hollywood actor man play games with the court.

But, then the court gets to the meat of the case and does make the right decision. As much of a jerk as Woods has been throughout both of the cases we’ve discussed, he’s legally on the right side of this. He did not defame Portia Boulger with his tweet questioning whether she was another woman. The background of the case, if you don’t remember, is that there was a clip of a Trump-supporting Nazi woman, and some people started saying that it was a sort of false flag operation, saying that the woman was really Boulger, a well-known Bernie Sanders supporter. However, the two were obviously different women and Boulger wasn’t anywhere near the rally where the Nazi-spouting woman was recorded. Woods had tweeted a “question”: “So-called #Trump ‘Nazi’ is a #BernieSanders agitator/operative?” over a tweet from someone else making the claim that the woman was Boulger.

In this case, it’s that question mark at the end that saves Woods and actually makes the case a closer call than it should have been. Woods should have won easily, but here it really does seem to come down to the question mark:

Were it not for the question mark at the end of the text, this would be an easy case. Woods phrased his tweet in an uncommon syntactical structure for a question in English by making what would otherwise be a declarative statement and placing a question mark at the end. Delete the question mark, and the reader is left with an unambiguous statement of fact: ?Socalled #Trump ?Nazi? is [Portia Boulger,] a #BernieSanders agitator/operative.?

But the question mark cannot be ignored. The vast majority of courts to consider questions as potential defamatory statements have found them not to be assertions of fact. Rather, a question indicates a defendant?s ?lack of definitive knowledge about the issue? and ?invites the reader to consider? various possibilities.

And thus, the statement is not defamatory. The court does note that merely adding a question mark alone is not enough to sheild someone from defamation (so don’t get that idea!) but here it is enough to make the tweet protected.

Again, this is a good (and correct) result, even if Woods’ hypocrisy is on full display here. Not only did he try to evade service in this case and try to get it dismissed on those grounds, he remains the guy who continued to chase after an anonymous internet troll for saying a couple of marginally mean things about him on Twitter. One hopes that Woods will have learned a lesson from all this — that filing defamation lawsuits against people over their angry tweet rants is a bad idea… but… that seems unlikely.

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Comments on “James Woods Saved By A Question Mark, But Still A Total Hypocrite”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: I liked James Woods as an actor when he didn't have a twitter account.

That’s kind of my feeling too, in a way. I love his performances as sleazy assholes in films like Videodrome, Salvador, Vampires, Cat’s Eye and so on. While those performances and the quality of the films stand, it’s disappointing to realise that he wasn’t actually acting when he played the sleazy asshole.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Run little coward

So it appears we can add ‘cowardice’ to the long list of character flaws the hypocrite Woods has. I find it funny that the big tough guy was apparently so terrified of having to to go court on the other side that he did everything he could to avoid being served.

Take someone to court? In a heartbeat.

Be the one taken to court? Play a childish game of ‘hide from the lawyer’.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Run little coward

Hahaha, you are a tool.

James Woods is a douchebag, and his “hiding” is just part of that. Do you think he was afraid? He was just being a pain in the ass.

Say what you want, he has accomplished a lot more than anyone commenting in this thread. Feel good in your superior thoughts while he lives in his multimillion dollar home probably somewhere along the beach.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: "He's not sleazy in that way, he's sleazy in an entirely different way!"

‘He wasn’t afraid, he was just being a pain in the ass and trying to duck of of being sued because that’s just how he is’? Oh yeah, that’s much better. Your idea of defending someone is certainly novel, I’ll give you that.

As a matter of fact I will feel superior to him. He may have more money, but I have the satisfaction that I’m not a hypocritical asshole named James Woods, and you can’t buy that.

(Normally I try to avoid such things as calling someone ‘asshole’, but when talking about someone who, upon learning that the person they were hypocritically suing had died gloated and expressed a hope that they had died in agony, calling them an ‘asshole’ seems if anything an understatement.)

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Run little coward

Meh, I might not have a multi-million dollar home, but I do live right next to the beach, have a good well-paid career and I didn’t have to be a hateful pile of shit to get there either. If you have to be a douchebag and an overall bad human being to get what you want, you really haven’t accomplished all that much.

Anonymous Coward says:

"Delete the question mark" -- and INSERT plaintiff's name! -- and THEN "the reader is left with an unambiguous statement of fact:"

I didn’t first read it as a modified statement, but as a question, and like everyone else, I’m no fan of James Wood.

Judges CANNOT read text as "IF" and also modify it to suit their bias. You kids would howl like stepped-on puppies if similar re-writing was against one of the many criminals supplying you with stolen content.

@ "Not surprisingly, the judge is not impressed by Woods hiding out from the process server:"

Yeah, but since clearly a nuisance suit summarily dismissed, why should Woods be bothered? Both judge and Masnick try to find fault with Woods sheerly for personal spite.

BTW: I’m sure you intend: "Not only did he try to evade service in this case?" And so on.

You don’t go very far with digs at Woods and yet remain silent on Ayyadurai because yourself have "learned a lesson"?

This reminds me of Kim Dotcom hiding out half the world away, fighting extradition for 6 years now (denying ME the fun of seeing him jailed)! Techdirt and fanboys went nuts because Dotcom failed to appear at hearing and was declared a fugitive; again when failed to show and got property seized.

YES, that IS same: failing to brace up and go to trial. I think the jury should take Dotcom’s delay into account and tack those years onto the inevitable sentence.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: James Woods is an asshole?

Even without the question mark it wouldn’t be, as statements of opinion don’t qualify as defamation, and I think it safe to say that no-one is going to take that as an assertion of fact(which can qualify as defamation) that he is a literal asshole that has somehow become sentient and is running around giving that particular body-part a bad rep.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yeah, if that’s the point where you question Woods’ career, I’m not sure what to say. He’s made far, far worse movies than that.

I’d disagree with the rest of his statement, too. While he was never an A-lister exactly, he certainly had enough pull to get projects made and a number of starring roles where the film was sold on the back of his presence, as well as solid supporting roles. I’d personally put him in the same realm as Pacino or De Niro – great early career but in later years delved into self-parody and easy paydays rather than quality output.

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