Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Arpaio v. Zucker

United States District Court, District of Columbia

October 31, 2019

JOSEPH MICHAEL ARPAIO, Plaintiff,
v.
JEFF ZUCKER, et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROYCE C. LAMBERTH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Plaintiff Joseph Arpaio brings this action against three media corporations and several of their employees for publishing or broadcasting allegedly defamatory statements concerning Mr. Arpaio's 2017 criminal contempt of court conviction. Defendants erroneously represented that Mr. Arpaio had either been convicted of a felony or had spent time in prison.[1] And so, Mr. Arpaio filed the instant suit alleging defamation, tortious interference with prospective business relations, and false light.

         Defendants argue that the statements were substantially true, but even if they were not, Mr. Arpaio has not alleged any facts tending to prove actual malice. Each group of defendants separately filed motions to dismiss pursuant to both Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court will grant defendants' motions to dismiss Mr. Arpaio's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and deny defendants' motions to dismiss Mr. Arpaio's claims pursuant to the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act.

         I. Background

         Mr. Arpaio served as the Sheriff of Maricopa County from 1993 to 2017. Compl. ¶ 14, ECF No. 1. During his tenure as Sheriff, Mr. Arpaio was frequently at the center of various controversies. Among them was Mr. Arpaio's handling of his office's policing tactics in Latino neighborhoods, as detailed in Melendres v. Arapaio, No. CV-07-2513-PHX-GMS. In Melendres, Judge G. Murray Snow enjoined then-Sheriff Arpaio and his office from "detaining any person based only on knowledge or reasonable belief... that the person is unlawfully present within the United States because as a matter of law such knowledge does not amount to reasonable belief that the person" committed a crime. United States v. Arpaio, No. CR-16-01012-001 -PHX-SRB, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 214888, at *4 (D. Ariz. July 31, 2017). Judge Snow would go on to refer Mr. Arpaio for an investigation of criminal contempt based on the court's finding that Mr. Arpaio had knowledge of the injunction and continued to engage in conduct that violated it. See Id. at *3; Melendres v. Arpaio, No. CV-07-2513-PHX-GMS, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 111489, at *5-6 (D. Ariz. Aug. 19, 2016).

         The U.S. Department of Justice brought criminal contempt charges against Mr. Arpaio but agreed to limit the sentence it would seek to six months. Mar. 1, 2017 Order, United States v. Arpaio, No. CR-16-01012-001-PHX-SRB (D. Ariz.) (Dkt. No. 83) at 2-3. On July 31, 2017, Judge Susan R. Bolton found Mr. Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt of court. Arpaio, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 214888, at *26; see Id. at *25 (explaining how Mr. Arpaio "flagrant[ly] disregard[ed]" Judge Snow's order). On August 25, 2017, President Donald Trump pardoned Mr. Arpaio, thereby mooting Mr. Arpaio's sentencing. United States v. Arpaio, No. CR-16-01012-001-PHX-SRB, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 182254, at *4 (D. Ariz. Oct. 19, 2017).

         a. Cable News Network, Inc. ("CNN")

         On January 10, 2018, CNN anchor (and defendant) Chris Cuomo introduced a report about Mr. Arpaio's 2018 U.S. Senate candidacy on CNN's "New Day" morning show. In doing so, Mr. Cuomo stated that Mr. Arpaio was a convicted felon who was later pardoned by President Trump. CNN New Day Tr. 2:3, ECF No. 34-2. The report itself correctly stated that Mr. Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor and provided context for the conviction. Id. at 3:4-12. Within minutes of Mr. Cuomo's erroneous statement and at the close of the report, Mr. Cuomo corrected his statement and clarified that Mr. Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor. Id. at 5:25-6:2. CNN placed a recording of that segment on its website which included Mr. Cuomo's introduction and the report itself, but it did not include Mr. Cuomo's explicit correction after it. CNN Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 14 n.l 1, ECF No. 34. CNN did not add Mr. Cuomo's explicit correction to its online recording until Mr. Arpaio filed the present lawsuit. Id.

         Mr. Arpaio alleges that defendants Jeff Zucker, Chris Cuomo, and CNN (collectively "the CNN defendants") acted in concert and with actual malice to defame him. Compl. ¶¶ 36-37. According to Mr. Arpaio, CNN broadcasted Mr. Cuomo's defamatory introduction, which Mr. Zucker, as the President of CNN, later ratified. Id. ¶ 37. Mr. Arpaio alleges that, as a result of the CNN defendants' actions, he has suffered from "widespread ridicule and humiliation and . . . severe loss of reputation, which has in turn also caused him pain and financial damage." M¶43.

         For their part, the CNN defendants argue that Mr. Cuomo's statements were substantially true, but even if they were not, Mr. Arpaio has not alleged any facts tending to prove actual malice. CNN Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 11.

         b. Rolling Stone LLC ("Rolling Stone ")

         On November 13, 2018, Rolling Stone published an online article written by defendant Tessa Stuart (collectively "the Rolling Stone defendants") about Kyrsten Sinema's electoral victory over Martha McSally in the 2018 Arizona U.S. Senate race. The article refered to Mr. Arpaio as an "ex-felon" when explaining who Martha McSally defeated in the Arizona Republican primary. Compl. Ex. 2, ECF No. 1-2. Within hours of the article's publication, Rolling Stone revised the article and changed "ex-felon" to "presidential pardonee." Rolling Stone Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss Ex. B, ECF No. 36-2. The revised article further clarified that Mr. Arpaio was convicted of a misdemeanor and the editor's note contains an apology. Id.

         Mr. Arpaio alleges that the Rolling Stone defendants acted in concert and with actual malice to defame him. Compl. ¶¶ 36, 39. According to Mr. Arpaio, the Rolling Stone defendants' conduct caused him to suffer from "widespread ridicule and humiliation and. .. severe loss of reputation, which has in turn also caused him pain and financial damage." Id. ¶ 43.

         For their part, the Rolling Stone defendants argue that the passing reference to Mr. Arpaio as an "ex-felon" was substantially true, but even if it was not, Mr. Arpaio has not alleged any facts tending to prove actual malice. Rolling Stone Defs.' Mot. to Dismiss 6, ECF No. 36.

         c. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.