Billionaire Sheldon Adelson Is Trying To Use An Anti-SLAPP Law To Get Out Of Paying Anti-SLAPP Damages And It Ain't Working

from the what-is-it-with-these-billionaires-and-their-slapp-suits dept

Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson has been known to be a bit litigious at times. Way back in 2015, when there was an effort underway to overturn Nevada's very good anti-SLAPP law, there was speculation that Adelson was behind the effort, due to him losing a case thanks to that law. It turns out that the remnants of that particular case are still going, despite dating all the way back to events in 2012. The issue involves the National Jewish Democratic Council posting a link concerning operations in Adelson's Macau casinos. The case went through a variety of different courts and was dismissed under Nevada's anti-SLAPP laws.

But a variation on that case continued because when NJDC then sought compensatory and punitive damages for the original SLAPP suit, Adelson tried to flip the script and argued (among many other things) that the lawsuit against him for such damages was, itself, a SLAPP suit. Earlier this fall, the judge said that's not how any of this works.

Adelson next moves for dismissal under Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law. He puckishly avers that his initial defamation suit — even though it was dismissed as a SLAPP — was itself protected conduct under the anti-SLAPP statute. He therefore argues that he is entitled to dismissal of this damages suit because it, too, qualifies as a SLAPP.

[....]

Under Adelson’s reading of these two provisions, any anti-SLAPP damages action can itself qualify as a SLAPP if the previously dismissed SLAPP was a “good faith communication”— i.e., if the previous suit was not “objectively baseless.” (Dkt. No. 30 at 6.) This interpretation of the statute, however, creates an oddity. It would be peculiar, to say the least, if Nevada wrote its anti-SLAPP statute to shield litigants who file SLAPPs from liability in a subsequent anti-SLAPP damages action. The twin aims of the statute are to protect defendants from litigation costs and to deter plaintiffs from bringing SLAPP claims. John, 219 P.3d at 1281. Those compensatory and deterrent purposes would be substantially undermined if the statute’s damages provision applied only to the subset of SLAPP lawsuits that could be demonstrated to be objectively unreasonable or brought in subjective bad faith.

The court still explores this issue and then notes... sorry, Sheldon, that ain't gonna fly:

Adelson has not even attempted to meet his burden of production. For example, in order to establish that the communication was made in “good faith,” the movant must provide evidence that the communication was “truthful or . . . made without knowledge of its falsehood.” ... But Adelson has not provided any evidence whatsoever— “written or oral, by witnesses or affidavits,” ... — that the allegations in his initial lawsuit were truthful or brought without knowledge of their falsehood. Thus, Adelson has failed to demonstrate that his initial lawsuit was a “good faith” communication. Because he has failed this threshold showing, Adelson’s special motion to dismiss is denied.

Adelson asked the court to reconsider this point, and a few days ago, the court again told Adelson that this is not how any of this works. Adelson tried to argue that he was held to a different standard when decrying this as a SLAPP suit than the folks on the other wide were held to when they called his original lawsuit a SLAPP suit. Part of the issue was that Nevada's anti-SLAPP law changed a bit between the first lawsuit and the latest one:

Adelson descries an inconsistency. But these holdings are easily reconciled. At the time of Adelson v. Harris, the Nevada statute provided only that the special motion to dismiss was to be “[t]reat[ed] . . . as a motion for summary judgment.”... Accordingly, the Court in Adelson v. Harris properly applied the summary-judgment standard to conclude that Adelson “fail[ed] to demonstrate a genuine issue of material fact on the issue of good faith.”... In 2013, however, the Nevada legislature “removed the language likening an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss to a motion for summary judgment and set forth a specific burden-shifting framework.”... Under that framework, it is now the movant’s initial burden to “establish[], by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claim is based upon a good faith communication.”... In this case, Adelson submitted no evidence whatsoever on the issue. Accordingly, Adelson failed to meet his burden, as required by the post-2013 statute, and his anti-SLAPP motion was properly denied.

In a footnote, the court also mocks Adelson trying to add "new facts" that were not brought up originally, and also points out that even if Adelson had met the burden described above, it still wouldn't have resulted in the case being dismissed, since the Plaintiffs had a legitimate claim for damages according to Nevada's anti-SLAPP law:

Further, as Plaintiffs correctly note, even if Adelson were deemed to have met his initial burden, he would still be disentitled to dismissal. The burden would then shift to Plaintiffs to demonstrate “a probability of prevailing on the claim.”... And because the sole precondition to prevailing on the claim for compensatory damages is the district court’s grant of a special motion to dismiss, Plaintiffs would be able to do so.

While I doubt this case is anywhere close to over, despite all these years, it's looking increasingly like Adelson will, in fact, have to pay up.

Filed Under: anti-slapp, damages, defamation, free speech, nevada, sheldon adelson


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  • icon
    Thad (profile), 20 Dec 2019 @ 3:46pm

    Awfully stingy for a guy who had $20 million to waste on Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2019 @ 3:59pm

      Re:

      It's not so much the money as it's that he just can't stand not getting his way like he's used to.

      It would kind of funny to see him hit with a second anti-SLAPP for this second “objectively baseless” stunt since he apparently didn't learn his lesson the first time.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Bobvious, 20 Dec 2019 @ 7:21pm

        Re: Re: can't stand not getting his way like he's used to.

        ....Presidential campaign....

        It's almost as if he's learned the behaviour of some petulant man-baby.

        Good thing he's not annoyed with John Oliver. 🍽💩

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 20 Dec 2019 @ 3:50pm

    Sheldon. My man. You could afford to pay those damages and still be filthy fucking rich. Just pay the fine and be on your way, man.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 20 Dec 2019 @ 4:07pm

    I'm sure he's setting money aside as we speak to buy enough republican politicians to get anti-anti-SLAPP laws on the books on a national level the next time they get any sort of majority on both houses.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2019 @ 7:04pm

      Re:

      You don't buy politicians from only one side, you buy them all and then play them against each other while you rob the country blind.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2019 @ 2:05am

        Re: Re:

        You don't buy politicians from only one side, you buy them all and then play them against each other while you rob the country blind.

        Which only works to the extent the masses are getting what they want because we pretend to be a fair, democratic republic. The second that is no longer the case, the people rise up. The problem is that Americans don't have very high standards for their government, but many good things happen too.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bloof (profile), 21 Dec 2019 @ 2:21am

        Re: Re:

        Nah, Republican megadonors like Sheldon tend to funnel the bulk of their money to one side and will move heaven and earth to try and block any candidate to the left of Reagan.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2019 @ 2:45am

    Nibbled to Death by Ducks

    Sheldon paid his own attorneys for the first round suit, and now has to pay the NJDC's fees and costs due to the anti-SLAPP finding. Having become neither more educated nor less arrogant, Shelly's going for round two on the same stupid-train. It could take a very long time, but let's hope that he nickels-and-dimes his wealth to death with what would otherwise have simply been paper-cuts to his fortune.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Dec 2019 @ 3:54am

    Ah the legal brilliance billions can buy...

    Attempting the 'I know you are but what am I?' defense I see, usually employed by only the finest of minds.

    Well, if nothing else I'm sure it was a new legal insanity for the judge, glad to see that they slapped him down for it all the same.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Toom1275 (profile), 21 Dec 2019 @ 8:47am

      Re: Ah the legal brilliance billions can buy...

      I recall reading one litigant so arrogant that he would accuse victims of his lawsuits of "filling the docket with frivolous filings" for doing nothing more than submitting their procedurally-appropriate replies to his own frivolous motions.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 21 Dec 2019 @ 12:27pm

        Re: Re: Ah the legal brilliance billions can buy...

        Ah yes, remember reading about that projecting hypocritical lunatic. Can't remember the name offhand, but they were a gem.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Toom1275 (profile), 21 Dec 2019 @ 4:47pm

          Re: Re: Re: Ah the legal brilliance billions can buy...

          The one I was thinking of was "the lawsuit terrorist" Brett Kimberlin. (He was also the "winner" of Popehat's "Censorious Asshat of the year" award for 2012)

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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