Constitutional Law Intellectual Property

Will Roy Moore Win His $95 Million Lawsuit Against Sacha Baron Cohen? Hint: No, He Will Lose.

Former Alabama Senate candidate and State Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore has filed a $95 million defamation lawsuit against comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, Showtime and CBS after he appeared on Cohen’s series, “Who Is America?” In July, Moore appeared on the third episode of Who is America?, a Showtime series where the comedian disguises himself in interviews with unsuspecting guests ranging from Bernie Sanders to former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. In the episode, Cohen disguised himself as an Israeli anti-terrorism expert and uses a metal detector that “detects pedophiles.” In the mock interview, it repeatedly beeps whenever it comes close to Moore. Moore denies being a pedophile and ends the interview suddenly.

The lawsuit claims Moore was invited to Washington, D.C., “to receive an award for his strong support for Israel in commemoration of its 70th anniversary as a nation state.” The court document says Moore “would not have agreed to appear” if he had known the outcome. The lawsuit ultimately claims the “fraudulent portrayal and mocking of Judge Moore as a sex offender” on the television show “severely harmed” his reputation and caused his family “severe emotional distress,” as well as “financial damage.” As a result, Moore is asking for $95 million in damages as well as attorneys’ costs and fees. A copy of the complaint can be found HERE

Photo courtesy of Showtime

Moore likely signed a broad and expansive release that advised him that he was waiving all claims including claims for defamation and, libel and slander. These releases have gotten Cohen and his company out of lawsuits before. In fact the only successful lawsuit was brought by a Palestinian grocer named Ayman Abu Aita, who was falsely called a terrorist n Cohen’s “Brüno” movie. Mr. Aita never signed a release.
Claiming that he was fraudulently induced into signing the release is Moore’s only hope. But that will likely fail as well. While I have not seen a copy of a release we have had some insight into the release’s language from past lawsuits. In 2009, Richelle Olsen, an executive director of a nonprofit in Palmdale, Calif., sued Mr. Cohen for an altercation during filming for “Brüno” that she said caused an injury. According to court papers, the release for Ms. Olsen — a “Standard Location Agreement” — stipulated that she had not relied upon any promises as to “the nature of the Film or the identity, behavior or qualifications of any of the cast members,” and that she was signing the paperwork “with no expectations or understandings concerning the conduct offensive or otherwise, of anyone involved with this film.”
Ms. Olsen’s suit was tossed in 2011. Moore is a lawyer and a judge and cannot claim he did not understand the plain meaning of the release.

Sometimes you can tell a lot about a lawsuit by looking at the lawyer who filed it. Moore’s lawyer is none other than Larry Klayman, a far right activist fool who loves to file frivolous lawsuits. He has filed dozens of lawsuits against the Bill Clinton administration in the 1990s. He is the founder of Judicial Watch and self-styled government watchdog group Freedom Watch. In addition to his lawsuits against the Clinton Administration, he is also a “birther” and once sued to have President Obama deported. Klayman has also filed a number of lawsuits against political figures and governmental agencies over the years, almost all of them thrown out:

In 2010, Klayman represented Vincent Forras in a lawsuit against Feisal Abdul Rauf to prevent the building of the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.” In the motion to dismiss, Rauf’s attorney called Klayman an “infamous publicity hound” and wrote that Forras “trades in his well deserved laurels for fifteen minutes of fame as a nationally recognized bigot.” Klayman and Forras sought sanctions, but the court denied that request and dismissed the suit. Klayman and Forras then sued Rauf and his attorney for defamation, and that suit was also dismissed

In 2011, Klayman represented conservative journalist Joseph Farah in a defamation lawsuit against Esquire magazine. A federal district judge dismissed the suit, and the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the dismissal.

In 2011, Klayman represented Bradlee Dean in a defamation suit against Rachel Maddow. The suit was unsuccessful and Dean was ordered to pay defendants’ legal fees, totaling nearly $25,000.

In 2012 Klayman filed on behalf of a Florida resident an unsuccessful challenge to Barack Obama’s placement on the primary ballot and claimed the president is not a natural-born citizen as required by the Constitution.

In 2012, Klayman represented the presidential candidate for the Constitution Party and a member of the Alabama Republican party, who alleged the Alabama Secretary of State had a duty to investigate Obama’s eligibility. The trial court dismissed the complaint, and the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal. Chief Justice Roy Moore and another justice dissented,however, arguing the Secretary of State did have the authority to conduct such an investigation.

In 2013, a citizen grand jury formed by Klayman “indicted” Obama and others of various crimes (including involuntary manslaughter), “convicted” Obama of fraud, and alleged the president forged his birth certificate in order to pass eligibility requirements.[57][58]

In 2013 Klayman sued the Obama administration over the collection of phone records by the National Security Agency (NSA). In 2017, the district court dismissed the lawsuit. The court noted, “Klayman accused this Court of being ‘coopted by the so called ‘Deep State’’ into ruling against him. Unfortunately for plaintiffs, such baseless accusations are no substitute for a well-pleaded complaint.”

Klayman has had several other dismissed suits against Obama, including a lawsuit alleging that the Obama administration had secretly allowed the Ebola virus to enter the United States to harm people of the “Caucasian race and Jewish-Christian religion;” a suit to block actions taken by the Obama administration regarding gun control; a lawsuit to block the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015; and a suit against Obama and others for inciting airport protests at the Los Angeles International Airport. All were dismissed.

In 2014, Klayman filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alleging that the Obama administration’s actions regarding federal immigration policy were not authorized by Congress. Later in 2014, a federal court dismissed the lawsuit, concluding that Arpaio lacked standing to challenge the policy changes. The dismissal was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and the United States Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

In 2015, Klayman filed a defamation lawsuit on behalf of Dennis L. Montgomery against James Risen, the author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War. The lawsuit alleged that Risen falsely described Montgomery as “the maestro behind what many current and former U.S. officials … believe was one of the most elaborate and dangerous hoaxes in American history.” In 2016, a federal court dismissed Montgomery’s lawsuit.

In 2016, on behalf of five individuals who suffered physical harm after taking Levaquin, Klayman sued the drug’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and Hamburg’s husband, alleging they colluded to enrich themselves by not warning the public that the drug posed health risks. In 2017, the federal district court dismissed the suit.

In 2016, Klayman applied in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada for permission to represent Cliven Bundy in the criminal case stemming from the 2014 Bundy standoff. Chief Judge Gloria Navarro denied Klayman’s request, citing his failure to fully disclose the extent of his prior professional discipline.

What Chief Judge Navarro was referring to was that in a 1992 trial in a California federal court, Judge William Keller barred Klayman from his courtroom for life. Five years later, in a separate case in New York, Klayman’s behavior led then district judge Denny Chin to issue a lifetime ban on the attorney practicing law before him.

In 2007, Klayman received a $25,000 retainer from a Daytona Beach woman facing criminal charges and she accused him of not providing legal services in return. The Florida Bar Association mediated the matter and Klayman agreed to pay off a small portion within 90 days, but after the deadline lapsed he was reprimanded by the association.

In 2014, Klayman agreed to be publicly censured by the D.C. Bar. Klayman represented three individuals who had sued Judicial Watch, his former employer and client, but he failed to obtain Judicial Watch’s consent to waive his conflict of interest. Klayman maintained that the bar “recognized there was no evidence of dishonesty or personal gain”. In June 2017, however, the discipline committee recommended that Klayman be suspended from practicing law for 90 days. The disciplinary matter remains pending before D.C. Court of Appeals.

An October 2016 opinion by a federal appellate court noted 12 cases “in which Klayman’s ability to practice law in an ethical and orderly manner was called into question.”

Besides his shoddy and shady lawyer, there are other problems with Moore’s lawsuit. For one, the show is clearly a parody so no one would actually believe that the instrument was truly labeling him a pedophile or sexual predator. It was obvious he was being pranked. Also, it would be hard to prove damages as those who thought Roy Moore was a predator thought so before and after the show aired and those that believed his denials – including President Trump of course – presumably were not swayed by the instrument’s beeping. So how was he harmed. Finally, Moore opens himself up to extensive questioning and discovery about the allegations of his sexual behavior since Cohen will also claim that “Truth is a defense.” He will be grilled for hours and perhaps even days by Cohen’s lawyers if the case makes it into the discovery phase. If the deposition is videotaped, Moore could wind up with another viral video he’d rather not have out there.

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