When rich, powerful men are accused of sexual misconduct they’ll do pretty much anything to shut their accuser up. Discredit the victim, threaten the victim, lie, cry, revamp their image with a new book/baby/movie, deploy bullsh*t defamation lawsuits against the victim’s attorney…
You may remember when, after being accused by a Showstoppers dancer of sexual misconduct, billionaire Casino magnate Steve Wynn responded by saying that he couldn’t have leered at employees because he is “blind” and suing the victims’ attorney Lisa Bloom for defamation in Las Vegas courts, seeking at least $75,000 in damages.
And you might understand why this is concerning for us, as victims’ attorneys who regularly hold rich and powerful people to account for their gross behavior, to see an obscenely wealthy man launching an attack on an attorney for merely representing a victim.
“In my opinion, Mr. Wynn sued me in an attempt to intimidate other women,” Bloom said in a statement.
Wynn suggested that Ms Bloom’s attempts to settle the Showstopper dancer’s complaints in pre-litigation (a move that is often best for victims who do not have the financial or emotional resources to be dragged through high-profile litigation by someone with endless money and a thirst for vengeance) was proof of her malice.
Ms. Bloom and her famed 1st Amendment Lawyer, Marc Randazza filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the case arguing that Wynn’s misguided lawsuit deprives Bloom of her First Amendment rights. Shockingly, the district court in Nevada agreed to let him proceed with the defamation suit.
If attorneys are going to be dragged through the mud by power pervs and accused of defamation when they try to do the right thing for the victim, well, that sets a terrifying precedent.
With our attorneys and favorite co-counsel, McLetchie Law, we filed to submit an amicus curiae brief. Huge gratitude to everybody who contributed to this brief, especially our summer intern, Brian Brantley and the teams at our firm and McLetchie: Maggie McLetchie, Leo Wolpert, Pharan Burchfield, Annie Seifullah, and Adam Massey.
You can read the full text of it here.
What is a SLAPP? A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to easily dismiss bogus lawsuits filed against people for exercising their First Amendment rights.
As the complaint states, we have an interest in the outcome of this case (Wynn V Bloom) because it involves the type of person we often fight in court: a powerful, highly resourced public figure who launches a SLAPP (such as the defamation suit against Bloom) to intimidate his victims and keep his misdeeds out of the public eye.
The three main points we make in the brief are:
- The District Court’s decision creates a mechanism for rich defendants to conflict out good, zealous, outspoken attorneys
- Rules of professional conduct create a presumption that attorneys are speaking in good faith about their clients’ allegations and thus, aren’t speaking with actual malice toward the adversary
- The District Court’s decision discourages pre-litigation resolution by claiming that standard pre-litigation settlement demands show maliciousness on the part of plaintiffs attorneys.
As we state in the brief: “it is a bald-faced attempt to disadvantage his accuser by conflicting her attorney, Ms. Bloom, out of further representing her against him.”
Allowing Wynn to proceed with it would give the green light to Power Pervs that slinging mud at victim’s attorneys is an effective way of shutting victims up.
“It will send a devastating message to attorneys who represent victims of the powerful. And that message is: “if you dare engage in pre-litigation advocacy on behalf of your client, you will not only be forced to withdraw the case but you will face liability yourself.”
Read our amicus brief in Wynn v Bloom here.
- A list of anti-SLAPP laws by state here
- American Bar Association: Federal Court Renews Hostility Toward Anti-SLAPP Laws
- NY Assembly: Senate and Assembly Majorities Advance Anti-SLAPP Legislation to Protect Free Speech
- Chicago Tribune: How do powerful men get away with chronic sexual harassment?
- Read our amicus brief in Wynn v Bloom here.