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Mark Geragos is accustomed to quite a bit of latitude opining about legal matters on CNN and other news networks, but Tuesday, a New York judge rejected his motion to dismiss a Dr. Luke defamation lawsuit over something the lawyer published on Twitter.
Back in 2014, Geragos was representing pop star Kesha Sebert in a heated dispute with Dr. Luke when the attorney tweeted a link to an article on how Lady Gaga told Howard Stern in an interview that she had once been sexually assaulted.
“Guess who the rapists [sic] was?” Geragos asked his 48,000 followers on Twitter.
When someone responded “Lukasz” — Dr. Luke’s given first name — Geragos replied, “#bingo.”
The attorney later told TMZ that he said it “because it’s true.” (Lady Gaga later refuted it.)
That led Dr. Luke to claim defamation in New York Supreme Court. In response, Geragos and his firm had several provocative arguments for dismissal.
One was that his statement was merely an opinion, not capable of being proven false or true. Another was that it was merely playful.
“Posting the provocative comment ‘guess the rapist’ on Twitter clearly implies the poster’s intent to engage in a non-serious, gossipy and hyperbolic interaction,” stated Geragos‘ bid to dismiss. “Additionally, the use of the term ‘bingo’ in and of itself suggests a lack of seriousness.”
As to the TMZ interview, his firm attempted to suggest that anything on the gossip site couldn’t be taken seriously.
“TMZ is not CNN, the New York Times, or the Associated Press,” stated Geragos & Geragos‘ motion to dismiss. “Instead it is a website that admits its meteoric rise to popularity followed its coverage of actor Mel Gibson’s DUI arrest, comedian Michael Richards’ racist and profanity-laced tirade at the Laugh Factor in Los Angeles, and the news of Britney Spears and Kevin Federline’s divorce. This is not news, it is entertainment.”
Geragos brought an alternative argument that his statements were privileged as it connected to pending litigation between Kesha and Dr. Luke. His firm attempted to convince the judge he had a “moral and social duty to speak” and that the widespread media coverage of the litigation was of substantial public interest. It was further contended that Dr. Luke had failed to allege malice.
Finally, there was also the argument made by Geragos & Geragos that the firm couldn’t be deemed to have “published” anything because all it did was automatically pick up its star attorney’s tweets on the its website. According to its motion papers, “G&G has no control over which Tweets are posted and the Tweets may or may not be relevant to the firm’s business. Gottwald has not alleged that Mr. Geragos’s personal twitter account is owned, managed, operated, or controlled by G&G. The Tweets originate with Mr. Geragos and his personal Twitter account, not G&G.”
None of these arguments persuade New York judge Robert R. Reed, who in a decision released yesterday, writes that Dr. Luke’s claims of defamation “are minimally adequate to satisfy the pleading requirements for such claims.”
The judge also won’t allow a transfer of the case to California and tells the parties to engage in discovery — which also may become a factor in Dr. Luke’s pending lawsuit against Kesha. Geragos is no longer representing her, but Dr. Luke’s lawyers have been pursuing discovery against Geragos there, too.
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