Supreme Court Turns Away Stormy Daniels’ Trump Defamation Lawsuit
AVN Hall of Famer sued Trump in 2018 over tweet accusing her of a ‘total con job.’
AVN Hall of Famer Stormy Daniels is now, officially, no longer suing Donald Trump. Two weeks short of two years after her widely publicized lawsuit over a “hush money” agreement was dismissed by a federal judge, the United States Supreme Court said that it would refuse to hear her second suit against Trump, this one for defamation.
On Monday, the country’s highest court issued its decision without any comment, indicating that the refusal was unanimous. By declining to take up the defamation case, SCOTUS leaves in place a ruling by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued last August, in which the lower court held that Trump’s statements in a tweet did not rise to the level of defamation, and therefore were not actionable in a lawsuit.
The suit stemmed from a 2018 incident in which Daniels and her then-attorney Michael Avenatti appeared on the ABC TV talk show The View, where they displayed a forensic sketch of a man Daniels claimed to have accosted and threatened her while invoking Trump’s name.
Trump, who was president at the time of the broadcast, took to his Twitter account to declare the man depicted in the sketch “nonexistent” and accuse Daniels of “a total con job.” Avenatti and Daniels filed a defamation suit against Trump almost immediately — though Daniels later claimed that Avenatti had filed the lawsuit over her objections.
Nonetheless, after firing Avenatti over alleged financial misdeeds, Daniels hired Oklahoma-based attorney Clark Brewster, and appealed the case after a federal judge in Los Angeles dismissed it, calling Trump’s comments “hyperbole” that was protected by the First Amendment.
But last August, the Appellate court also slapped down Daniels’ lawsuit, leading Brewster and Daniels to appeal to the Supreme Court. But on Monday, the high court simply declined to hear the lawsuit at all.
In a comment to the Reuters news agency, Brewster said that he was surprised SCOTUS rejected the case, because, he said, the lower courts’ rulings had left “confusion and uncertainty” over legal issues raised by Daniels’ lawsuit.
In fact, the issue of whether or not Trump’s tweet defamed Daniels was not the basis for her appeal. Instead, Brewster and Daniels contended that the lower court violated a Texas law by dismissing the case, when the Texas statute requires resolutions of free speech cases. Because Daniels was legally a resident of Texas, and Trump at the time was a New York resident, the lawsuit went to federal court.
Whether state laws such as the Texas statute can be applied in federal lawsuits was the question at the heart of Daniels’ Supreme Court appeal.
But Trump’s lawyer celebrated the ruling.
“The ruling confirms what we have been saying all along: that Stormy Daniels’ lawsuit against the President was frivolous and sanctionable,” attorney Charles Harder told Reuters.
The lower court ordered Daniels to pay Trump’s legal fees to the tune of $292,000, as well as to pay $1,000 in sanctions for bringing the case in the first place.