Representative Devin Nunes loses the right to publicity lawsuit against @DevinBull (?)

IN Nunes vs.. MeredithDecided today by Judge Jennifer Thurston (ED Cal.), Congressman Devin Nunes is suing Ben Paul Meredith for embezzlement and prosecution, based on “Meredith’s alleged model of public, negative comments about Nunes and his political career”. The facts:

Nunes has been criticized by many for his political positions and actions taken in line with his role in national politics. He has also filed countless lawsuits across the country in an attempt to stop this criticism. His lawsuit against Meredith seeks similar relief and makes widespread allegations that Meredith used multiple Twitter accounts to harass and lurk Nunes. Nunes did not send copies of these publications, nor did he identify the accounts he claims Meredith runs as part of his alleged Nunes harassment and harassment scheme.

According to Nunes Meredith, he is a sophisticated artificial intelligence data scientist who co-founded a technology company that creates and delivers artificial intelligence solutions. Nunes also claims that Meredith used this “extensive experience” to launch a Twitter harassment campaign designed to “embarrass the plaintiff, worsen the plaintiff’s life and instill fear in the plaintiff and others.” In particular, Nunes makes the following allegations about Meredith’s behavior:

  • Manages multiple “anonymous Twitter accounts in a follow-up, alarm and harassment scheme” Nunes
  • Coordinated with “violent third countries”
  • “Doxed” Nunes locations “dozens of times”
  • “[T]washed and retouched thousands false, threatening, hateful, violent, obscene, obscene and scandalous statements about the plaintiff “(emphasis added)
  • Nunes was charged with various state and federal crimes
  • “Humiliating, offensive and threatening tweets hashtags” used
  • “[T]threatens the plaintiff’s life and threatens to come after the plaintiff “
  • Uses Nunes’ name, photo and likeness to sell goods and conduct “professional fundraising” with Meredith’s social media posts

Nunes did not provide any examples of this alleged digital speech in his complaint. Opposing the proposal against SLAPP, Nunes included a screenshot of the website stating that a woman named Michelle Emmett was responsible for the @devincow Twitter account, which was used to “troll Nunes” posting tweets for Nunes). Nunes also provided a screenshot of Emmett’s personal Twitter account. Nunes claims that there is a connection between Emmett and Meredith because Meredith has posted many tweets marking Emmett’s personal account, and a study by Whitepages shows that the two were married. Nunes did not provide more examples, screenshots or other evidence of the alleged connection …

The court rejected Nunes’ claim for misappropriation, which is essentially what is often known as a “right to publicity” claim:

[Cal. Civ. Code §] 3344 (d) prohibits cause of action under the statutes for the unauthorized use of a person’s name, voice, signature, photograph or likelihood if used “in connection with any news, public affairs or sports broadcast or account, or any political campaign. “California courts and the Ninth District apply this legal exception to both the legal and the usual grounds for a commercial misappropriation claim ….

According to Nunes, Meredith used Nunes’ name, photo and likeness “for professional fundraising” and to promote herself and her “multiple anonymous Twitter accounts”. However, Unes Nunes does not dispute that the disputed behavior is related to Meredith’s criticism of Nunes as a political figure. In fact, Nunes affirms positively that Meredith’s intention to appropriate his resemblance was “to take advantage of the reputation, prestige and well-known mark of the plaintiff in Tulare County”. According to Nunes, Meredith’s digital speech scheme is targeted and seeks to downplay Nunes’ reputation as a political figure in the community. Issues related to current political issues, such as a comment on the suitability of a political official, fall directly under the exceptions in § 3344 (d). Michaels v. Internet Entm’t Grp. (CD Cal. 1998) (noting § 3344 (d) provides ‘full protection of journalism’, which includes ‘policy and public debate’). As the impugned conduct arose in the context of Meredith’s criticism of Nunes as a politician, the Court finds that § 3344 (d) excludes Nunes’ claim for misappropriation ….

Nunes also filed a lawsuit under the California Prosecution Act, but the court concluded that Nunes did not provide enough details:

[A] there is a de facto dispute as to the circumstances of the alleged threat to Nunes’ life and whether it constitutes a “real threat”. Um, if we assume that Nunes’ allegations in the complaint are true – that Meredith was responsible for a threatening post and did so with serious intent to harm Nunes – the complaint contains enough facts to overcome the protection of the First Amendment, as the real threat does not fall under the protection of the First Amendment …

[Nonetheless, under the California stalking statute]”The plaintiff is obliged to support his allegations with independent corroborating evidence” Nunes did not provide any corroborating evidence, such as satisfying this element of the status of civil prosecution. Despite allegations that Meredith posted thousands of statements ignoring and threatening Nunes on Twitter, a public and freely accessible platform, Nunes did not provide any of these Publications, which are alleged to be offensive to the Court. Nunes did not provide any messages or statements from Meredith to confirm her claim that Meredith has published thousands of tweets disregarding Nunes.

The only documentary evidence Nunes provided undermines, not confirms, his claim. Opposing the rejection proposal, Nunes sent a screenshot from a website allegedly identifying Michel Emmett as the owner of the @devincow Twitter account used to “troll Nunes”. Nunes also posted a screenshot of Michelle Emmett’s personal Twitter page. Nunes claims to have reviewed Emmett’s tweets, which reveal that “she was tagged by Meredith in countless tweets about [Nunes]However, Nunes did not send any of these “countless” tweets.

Nunes also claims that the White Pages indicate that Emmett is married to Meredith. Court The Court does not see the relevance of this fact. To the extent that Nunez intends to convey that Meredith was responsible for Emmett’s tweets because he was married to her, the Court rejects this idea as unfounded at the moment; Nunes has not cited any case-law which suggests that a person’s actions may be imputed to his or her spouse as a matter of law or fact in these circumstances.} Nunes also failed to provide this alleged evidence.

Given only the evidence presented by Nunes, Emmett’s website and Twitter page point Emmett, not Meredith, is responsible for the alleged harassment and harassment of Nunes on Twitter. Nothing in the recording links Meredith to Emmett’s accounts. While standard 12 (b) (6) requires the Court to take the facts in the light favorable to the plaintiff and to reasonable conclusions, it does not require the Court to make illogical leaps. Accordingly, none of the documentary evidence provided by Nunes links Meredith to the alleged harassment or persecution. Thus, Nunes has not been able to sufficiently emphasize all the explicit elements of [a California] persecution ….

Unes Nunes identified another incident for which he did not provide evidence or a logical basis to attribute it to Meredith. Nunes claims that Meredith was connected to a political activist who “harassed” Nunes on the plane. According to Nunes, Meredith supported the incident by posting photos of it. However, Nunes did not provide screenshots of Meredith’s alleged publications. Although Meredith sent a copy of a news article about the incident with his proposal, nothing in this article suggests Meredith’s involvement. Therefore, this potential evidence suffers from the same defect as the @devincow Twitter page, as it does not show a link to an action or statement by Meredith.},

However, the court left room for the reopening of the prosecution’s action if the appeal is properly amended:

[If Nunes] can present with his amended complaint, independent corroborating evidence …, Nunes can file a sufficient claim and probability of success to overcome the claim against SLAPP at the stage of the request for rejection [as to stalking].

Congratulations to Brian D. Whelan of the Whelan Law Group, who represents Meredith.

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