Remember Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino mogul who spent some $150 million trying to get Republicans, particularly Newt Gingrich, elected in 2012? He just lost a defamation lawsuit he filed against a Democratic group and was ordered to pay their legal fees too.
A federal judge dismissed billionairecasino mogul Sheldon Adelson’s lawsuit against the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC). Finding that Adelson’s complaint violated a Nevada law against court cases intended to stifle free speech, the judge also ordered Adelson to pay the NJDC’s legal fees.
Adelson, who serves on the board of the Republican Jewish Coalition, filed a $60 million federal libel suit last year, claiming the NJDC defamed his character by repeating news reports about allegations that he personally approved and profited from prostitution at his Macau casino. Adelson claimed NJDC had “crossed the threshold from constitutionally protected speech to defamation of a public figure,” by repeating these allegations.
The NJDC refused to back down and told the court it was a “strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP),” aimed at silencing its free speech rights through intimidation. Because federal district judge J. Paul Oetken found NJDC was engaging in protected political speech (under the doctrine of “fair report privilege”) and agreed the case violated a state ban on SLAPP cases, he ordered Adelson to pay the NJDC’s attorney’s fees for the case.
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, a lawsuit that is intended to intimidate one’s political opponents into silence. Many states have strong statutes prohibiting them and if a judge determined that a lawsuit was filed for that purpose, they can dismiss the case and force the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s legal fees, as happened in this case.