Billionaire Steve Wynn, Who Once Tried To Kill Nevada's Anti-SLAPP Law, Loses Defamation Case Under That Law
from the now-you-see-why... dept
Back in 2015, we wrote about some apparent backroom dealing in Nevada, in which the legislature seemed poised to get rid of that state’s very good and thorough anti-SLAPP law. As a reminder, anti-SLAPP laws are designed to stop an unfortunately common practice of wealthy individuals and companies from suing critics and reporters for defamation, even though the defamation cases themselves had no chance. The plaintiffs knew that merely dragging the defendant to court would be costly in terms of time, money and general stress. Anti-SLAPP laws were a way to deal with that unfortunately common practice usually by (1) putting the immediate burden on the plaintiff to show a likelihood of success and then dismissing the case quickly if they fail to do so, (2) halting the expensive and time-consuming discovery process, and (3) often making the plaintiffs pay the defendants’ legal fees. The idea is that this is a deterrent to frivolous lawsuits, while leaving legitimate defamation lawsuits unharmed. As we’ve pointed out for years, unfortunately, only about half of the states have such anti-SLAPP laws, of varying quality, and there is still no federal anti-SLAPP law.
In 2013, Nevada passed one of the best anti-SLAPP laws in the country. But, by 2015, there was an effort underway to throw it out. Nevada-based lawyer, Marc Randazza, pointed out that it appeared that billionaire Steve Wynn was a driving force behind the effort to kill Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law, perhaps in response to having recently lost a defamation lawsuit in California, thanks to California’s own anti-SLAPP law. Thankfully, that effort failed.
And now the National Law Review is pointing out that Wynn has lost yet another defamation lawsuit, under the very Nevada anti-SLAPP law that he was rumored to be seeking to get rid of a few years back. National Law Review has the full story in which Wynn sued the Associated Press and one of its reporters, Regina Garcia Cano.
After the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) in February released a public statement describing allegations by two women that Mr. Wynn had sexually harassed or assaulted them, AP reporter Regina Garcia Cano filed a public records request. Copies?redacted to protect information that would have identified the two alleged victims?were produced by the LVMPD to Ms. Cano. The AP published Ms. Cano’s report summarizing the two records?both of which concerned alleged incidents that happened in the 1970s?and Ms. Cano included the LVMPD’s statements that it could not investigate the allegations because of Nevada’s 20-year statute of limitations, but that it had passed to Chicago authorities a report concerning the incident alleged to have occurred there. That report included both a description of the alleged assaults and the claim by the alleged victim that she had later given birth to Mr. Wynn’s child in unusual circumstances in a gas station restroom?a claim Ms. Cano paraphrased in her article.
Mr. Wynn asserted defamation based only on the portion of the article summarizing the incident that was alleged to have taken place in Chicago, contending that the complainant was “delusional” and that the AP’s failure to quote verbatim the description of the alleged childbirth scenario rendered the news article unfair because readers would have found the allegation incredible if they had read the entire police case report.
The court, however, did not buy it according to the National Law Review. Unfortunately, Nevada’s District Court doesn’t post court documents online, so we don’t have the full ruling, but the NLR notes that, using Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law, “The court held that the challenged news report was absolutely privileged as a fair and accurate summary of a publicly available police case report reflecting a woman’s allegation that Mr. Wynn had sexually assaulted her years earlier.”
Of course, Wynn’s attorney is quoted in the article saying that they will appeal this ruling, once again keeping the AP and Ms. Cano in court for much longer. The ruling does entitle the AP to legal fees, and those legal fees seem likely to increase as the appeal continues. But if the goal of the process is just to keep the AP and Cano in court as long as possible, that might not be of that much concern. Still, this is why these kinds of anti-SLAPP laws are so important, why we need more of them, and why they need to be protected from those who seek to use the court system to harass and burden critics and reporters.