12:16pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Hollywood Lawyer Marty Singer Wins $323K After Beating Extortion Claim
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge has ordered Big Brother contestant and VH1 Famous Food host Mike Malin to fork over $323,689 after losing a claim that attorney Marty Singer had extorted him.
The case made waves in the Hollywood legal community and beyond when it went up to a California appeals court last year.
Malin had a restaurant business enterprise with Shereen Arazm, a judge on Top Chef Canada. Allegedly, money went missing, and Singer warned Malin via letter that a lawsuit would be filed if the money wasn't returned. He specifically wrote, "I have deliberately left blank spaces in portions of the complaint dealing with your using company resources to arrange sexual liaisons with older men such as 'Uncle Jerry,' Judge ——, aka 'Dad' (see enclosed photo), and many others. When the complaint is filed with the Los Angeles Superior Court, there will be no blanks in the pleading."
In November 2011, Malin sued, causing the defendants to file a motion to strike, as it was argued the claims arose from the exercise of constitutionally protected rights of speech or petition. Malin won the first round when Los Angeles judge Mary Strobel ruled the "letter is best read as extortion as a matter of law [because] [i]t threatens to reveal the names of sexual partners."
This put the fear in some in the legal community that strongly worded letters and cease-and-desist demands could trigger liability for lawyers and their clients. Singer — whose clients include Charlie Sheen, Quentin Tarantino and Bryan Singer —seemed to be the perfect guy to challenge the issue up to an appeals court as he's well-known for his aggressive letter writing.
Last July, Singer prevailed when the California appeals court decided that the letter was indeed protected because it was "inextricably tied" to a pending lawsuit.
The extortion claim died, and thanks to California's SLAPP statute meant to deter frivolous litigation interfering with First Amendment rights, Singer and his colleague Andrew Brettler are entitled to attorneys' fees and costs for having to defend the claim.