http://almanacnews.com/print/story/print/2012/12/05/kiraly-moves-to-dismiss-defamation-suit


Almanac

News - December 5, 2012

Kiraly moves to dismiss defamation suit

by Sandy Brundage

Where's Judge Judy when you need her? A Menlo Park fire board member sued for defamation and conspiracy shot back by asking the court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Attorneys Harmeet Dhillon and Krista Shoquist, representing Virginia Chang Kiraly, filed the motion to dismiss on Nov. 26, describing the suit as "a frivolous lawsuit that, on its face, both violates the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and is fatally defective as a pleading."

John Woodell, husband of Menlo Park Mayor Kirsten Keith, sued Ms. Chang Kiraly and city resident Chuck Bernstein in October, alleging that the pair told the media, police and unnamed other people that he'd vandalized campaign signs during the 2011 fire board election, among other allegations.

All parties agree that someone uprooted Ms. Chang Kiraly's campaign sign from Mr. Bernstein's yard, tossing it into the bushes, and that Mr. Woodell's cellphone was found next to it.

The plaintiff denied vandalizing the sign.

A detailed, 29-page memorandum filed with the request to dismiss the lawsuit cites media coverage, emails and other documentation, along with sworn statements from both defendants, to support its contention that in fact neither said Mr. Woodell had removed any signs.

On the other hand, supporting evidence is lacking in the complaint filed by Mr. Woodell, according to the defendant's attorneys, making it "fatally defective."

In an earlier interview, Ms. Dhillon told the Almanac that "there are certain types of lawsuits you can file that are bare bones like this, and defamation is not one of them." Defamation requires "great specificity — who said what to whom and where and when."

The motion to dismiss also argues that Mr. Woodell's public political participation in the fire board campaign and standing as an elected member of the San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee makes him a public figure, setting the bar for proving defamation even higher — the plaintiff must prove actual malice.

Seth Rosenberg of Minami Tamaki LLP, representing Mr. Woodell, declined to comment on the motion.

The filing asks the court to have Mr. Woodell pay the defendant's attorney fees. Ms. Dhillon told the Almanac that "depending on the volume of the opposition and the necessary reply brief, those fees could exceed $50,000."

A hearing on the motion is set for Jan. 8 in San Mateo County Superior Court.

Go to sanmateocourt.org and enter the name of a party to the lawsuit in the online case access menu to review the court filings.

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