Sheldon Adelson Gets SLAPPed Down

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.

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  • koyote ken

    couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy……..

  • Joey Maloney

    Astonishingly enough, this story hasn’t appeared in Yisrael HaYom (Israel Today), the free daily news[sic]paper that Mr. Adelson publishes in Israel.

    I give him props, though, for making it possible for me to put a fresh liner underneath my catbox every morning.

  • Modusoperandi

    If you have money to give to Newt Gingrich, you have too much money. I’ve done the math. It holds up.

  • caseloweraz

    And by what standard is Sheldon Adelson a public figure? I’m sure I never heard his name before this year, in connection with those massive political donations.

  • Marcus Ranum

    And by what standard is Sheldon Adelson a public figure?

    He is rich and attempts to use that wealth to gain disproportionate influence over the US’ “democratic” process. That makes him very public indeed.

  • tubi

    Wait, did Adelson in fact approve and profit from prostitution at his casino in Macau? Or does that not matter because NJDC was only repeating news stories others had promulgated?

  • thephilosophicalprimate

    This is the U.S., not the U.K. IANAL, but I’m pretty sure that someone accused of defamation under U.S. law does not have to prove that the alleged defamatory claim is true, but only that the claim was not made while knowing it was false or with reckless disregard for whether or not it was true. Since Sheldon Adelson’s lawyers certainly knew that the NJDC was just repeating widely published reports from plausible mainstream journalism, not deliberate falsehoods or random rumors, Adelson’s lawsuit was definitely intended to intimidate and punish them. I’m glad the judge had the good sense to SLAPP Adelson down for it.

  • democommie

    IANALOAPWOAMTMOP* but if Adelson has casino licenses in the U.S. and he’s actually done what is alleged doesn’t that make his holding those licenses problematic?

    * I Am Not A Lawyer Or Even A Person Whose Opinions Actually Matter To Most Other People

  • dingojack


    But even if Mr Adelson has been running a prostitution racket from his Macau casino interests, this case doesn’t (and won’t) affect his US casino license since it wasn’t about that at all. It was about could a newspaper publish these allegations under the doctrine of ‘fair report privilege’ or could Mr Adelson prevent them by claiming it amounted to defamation.

    The Judges thought the former.



    * I am definitely not a lawyer or even someone who is particularly conversant with United States law (even I am uninterested in my own opinion most of the time because I am frequently proven completely wrong-headed) [so there!]

  • naturalcynic

    And by what standard is Sheldon Adelson a public figure? I’m sure I never heard his name before this year, in connection with those massive political donations.

    What billionaire is not a public figure – especially one who is so generous with his money and opinions? Adelson is well known for the contributions and bribes he disburses to a large number of shady causes: Gingrich and then Romney, Chinese politicians that gave him the OK for his casino in Macao which multiplied his fortune, Israeli right win politicians, AIPAC [lobby for right wing Israelis in Washington], anti-union causes and a few actual charities. All-in-all one of the world’s top 10 scumbags.