Lawsuits against media outlets have not worked out well for ‘clock boy’
posted at 3:01 pm on January 11, 2017 by John Sexton
Ahmed Mohamed, aka “clock boy,” is the Texas high school student who took a disassembled clock to school in a pencil case. Mohamed wound up being questioned and eventually arrested by police for bringing a hoax bomb to school. That set off a massive backlash which included a tweet from President Obama inviting him to the White House.
Mohamed moved to Qatar for nearly a year after the incident but returned last summer to finish high school in the United States. After his return his father, Mohamed Mohamed, also started filing lawsuits. There was a defamation lawsuit filed against Fox News, The Blaze, Glenn Beck commentator Ben Shapiro and several others. There was also a separate lawsuit filed against the high school where he was arrested.
Today, Ken White at Popehat notes the lawsuits filed against media organizations and commentators have backfired rather spectacularly. The defendants have each brought anti-SLAPP motions which White describes as a statute that “gives defendants a procedural vehicle to ask the court to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at protected speech, and to recover attorney fees if they win.” And win they have:
Mohamed’s opposition was scattered and perfunctory. It did a very poor job of addressing the crucial distinction between protected opinion and potentially defamatory fact, devoting a few pages of poor argument unsupported by legal authority. So it is not surprising that the court granted Fox and [correspondent Ben] Ferguson’s motion in full and awarded more than $80,000 in fees to Fox and Ferguson…
The Blaze, Glenn Beck, the Center for Security Policy and Jim Hanson filed similar anti-SLAPP motions and also won:
This week, after a length hearing, the court granted both motions. According to a triumphant press release by CSP’s attorneys, the trial court pressed Mohammed’s lawyers for specific false factual statements without result. I’ve seen no transcript, but that would be consistent with the poor quality of the papers. The court has now issued orders granting the motions and invited these defendants to submit affidavits documenting their attorney fees for recovery. I’m going to estimate that those fees from these defendants will total between $200,000 and $300,000.
Still to come are two more an anti-SLAPP motion including one on behalf of commentator Ben Shapiro. White anticipates Shapiro’s motion will also be granted and with it another request for attorney’s fees. White concludes, “Mohamed has been utterly crushed by the Texas anti-SLAPP statute.” He adds, “This is the right result; his frivolous lawsuit was a classic SLAPP, calculated to harass detractors, garner publicity, and wage political war through other means.”
Ahmed is probably still going to get into a good college, aided by the lingering celebrity from his arrest. Remember, he was already invited to apply to MIT and has been praised by a number of leading technology companies. But his father’s lawsuits are not going to help pay for Ahmed’s tuition.