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Forras v. Rauf

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

April 18, 2014

VINCENT FORRAS, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, et al., Defendants

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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For Vincent Forras, Larry Klayman, Plaintiffs: Larry E Klayman, Law Office of Larry Klayman, Washington , DC.

For Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Adam Leitman Bailey, Defendants: Christopher G Hoge, Crowley, Hoge & Fein, PC, Washington , DC.

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MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANTS' SPECIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

BARBARA J. ROTHSTEIN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

Plaintiffs Larry Klayman and Vincent Forras bring this action against Defendants Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Adam Leitman Bailey to recover damages for defamation, false light, assault, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), (2), (3) and (6), and special motion to dismiss under the District of Columbia Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation Act of 2010 (the " Anti-SLAPP Act" ), D.C. Code § 16-5501-5505. Defendants' Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss and For Attorneys' Fees (hereinafter " Mot. to Dismiss" ) at 3. Upon careful consideration of the parties briefs, submissions, and exhibits, the Court concludes for the following reasons that Defendants' special motion to dismiss must be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

This litigation springs out of the efforts of Imam Rauf and members of the Islamic community in New York City to build an Islamic community center on Park Place in lower Manhattan, several blocks away from the site of the tragic destruction of the World Trade Center in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Complaint (" Compl." ) ¶ ¶ 3, 4.

A. Plaintiffs' New York Supreme Court Action

On September 9, 2010, Plaintiff Forras, through his attorney Plaintiff Klayman, brought an action in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, New York County against Defendant Imam Rauf, alleging that Rauf's plan to construct the community center constituted nuisance, intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, and assault. See Forras v. Rauf, 39 Misc.3d 1215[A], 975 N.Y.S.2d 366, 2012 N.Y. Slip Op 52479[U], 2012 WL 7986872 (N.Y. S.Ct. 2012) (the " New York Action" ). Defendant Bailey represented Rauf.

Forras claims to have been a " first responder" to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and has made himself an outspoken public advocate on issues regarding the September 11 attacks, personally and through an organization he founded, the Gear Up Foundation. Compl. ¶ 7.

Klayman is a " publically known civil rights and individual rights activist." Id. Personally and through an organization he founded, Freedom Watch, he engages in political commentary and institutes litigation on behalf of causes he advocates. Id. ¶ 2.

On October 7, 2010, Rauf (through his attorney, Bailey) filed a motion to dismiss the New York Action. The " Memorandum of Law in Support of Motion to Dismiss" stated in pertinent part:

" Plaintiff's attorney, an infamous publicity hound, has found in Plaintiff the perfect victim, a man who could have comfortably concluded his life as a national

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hero, as [a] self-described 'first responder' to the greatest national tragedy since Pearl Harbor. Instead, thanks to this wholly frivolous lawsuit, he trades in his well deserved laurels for fifteen minutes of fame as a nationally recognized bigot."
" His cause and his case have all the rationality of one who would seek to tear down New York City's Chinatown as vengeance for Pearl Harbor on the theory that all Asians are alike."
" Plaintiff's view is simple. According to him, Islam equates with terrorism...."
" Yet because [] Plaintiff's revulsion for one particular religion has so poisoned his mind, he claims the right to use the power of the court...."
" He has elected to transform himself from America's poster child hero to America's Spokesman of Bigotry..."
" That the plaintiff in this suit finds Islam unacceptable to him personally is simply irrelevant to the protection which Islam is entitled under the First Amendment..."
" ... we find that Plaintiff has nothing to offer but his bigoted assumption that all Muslims approve terrorism..."

Id. ¶ 9. Bailey submitted an affidavit in the New York Action, which stated:

" I am an American and profoundly proud to be a citizen of the greatest most diversely embracing nation the planet earth has ever had in all of its recorded history."
" I am a Jew and profoundly proud to adhere to the nation that brought to Western Civilization the commands to love one's neighbor as oneself and not to oppress the foreigner for we were once strangers in another land."
" I will not let the right to the free exercise of religion be confined by narrowness of vision and I will not let the right to erect a house of prayer to be torn down by blind bigotry."
" When in the days following an analogous atrocity in 1941 our people marshaled their will and marched off, nobody was an American of this type. We were all united under a single banner pledged to eradicate the very kind of religious intolerance we see in Plaintiff, represented in those years by the Third Reich and those aligned with it."

Id. ¶ 10.

On October 12, 2010, the New York Post reported on the motion to dismiss in an article entitled " Anti-Mosque Lawsuit Slammed as Bigotry. " Id. ¶ 11; Annie Karni, Anti-Mosque Lawsuit Slammed as Bigotry, N.Y. Post, Oct. 12, 2010. The article quoted the Defendants' statement in their dismissal motion that the New York Action was " motivated by 'blind bigotry.'" Affidavit of Larry Klayman in Support of Plaintiff's Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and For Attorneys Fees, Exhibit 1.

On January 2, 2011, Klayman cross-motioned for sanctions, objecting to the language of the dismissal motion and citing the New York Post article. On April 5, 2011, the Honorable Lucy Billings orally denied the sanctions motion because Defendants' " controversial statements" were " related to their litigation." Declaration of Adam Leitman Bailey in Support of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and for Attorneys' Fees (hereinafter " Bailey Dec." ), Exhibit 5.

On September 26, 2012, Justice Billings granted Defendants' motion to dismiss the action for failure to state a claim. Forras, 39 Misc.3d 1215[A], 975 N.Y.S.2d 366, ...


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