|First Amended Complaint in Kurin v. Balter|
This is the continuation of my draft Answer to this complaint. The first part is in the previous blog post. I will continue to add sections as I work on them. With apologies for the formatting issues that Blogger makes it hard to figure out, and for typos, as this draft will undergo editing before it is filed with the Court.
DEFAMATON PER SE
65. Plaintiff Kurin makes the following statement: “Upon Kurin’s return to UCSB in 2019, Balter discovered that Kurin had been on leave during and after the UCSB investigation.” This statement seems to imply that Balter somehow went in search of this information for reasons that are not explained. As explained above, Balter was approached by first one and then a number of archaeologists concerned about Kurin’s return to work since they regarded her as a danger to students based on the harassment and assaults at her field schools, and also her abuse of students at UCSB itself. As a #MeToo reporter, Balter felt obliged to investigate these allegations, as he has done in many other cases.
66. Kurin states: “Balter submitted a request under the California Public Records Act to UCSB.” This is true. Balter’s sources indicated that Kurin and Gomez had been subject to Title IX proceedings. Using standard reporting techniques, Balter successfully obtained from UCSB, after several months, the investigative and findings files pertaining to those cases.
67. Kurin states: “Balter also called and emailed numerous professors, students, and administrators
harassing them endlessly and making spurious allegations against Kurin.” It is true that Balter, using standard investigative reporting techniques, contacted a number of additional sources in the course of his reporting. It is flatly untrue that he harassed any of them. In fact, a number of these sources began talking to Balter on a regular basis and in turn suggested other sources he might talk to. Balter’s reporting and writing about Kurin are based on the same journalistic methods used by any other reporter. Unfortunately, in this case, that reporting led to a long series of revelations about Kurin’s conduct and misconduct.
68. Kurin states: “A few individuals did speak to Balter, and their hearsay-gossip-opinion-laden remarks are included in his blogs, but they provide few actual facts.” This statement is false on multiple counts. Many more than a “few” individuals spoke to Balter, and in nearly every case they were people who had directly witnessed the events Balter later wrote about in his reports about Kurin. Like all reputable reporters, Balter’s reporting does not rely on hearsay, gossip, or mere opinion. All of the factual statements in Balter’s reports are based on multiple, direct witnesses, including victims of sexual harassment and assault. Balter does not rely on hearsay, rumors, or second hand accounts in his reporting, even if rumors can sometimes lead a reporter to sources who have first hand knowledge. That is standard journalism.
69. Balter agrees that he published the blog post referenced here.
70. Plaintiff Kurin attempts to mislead the Court with a number of quotes taken out of context. As indicated above, Balter has never said that Kurin herself sexually abused anyone, only that she enabled such behavior by Gomez and thus in that sense participated in it over many years. Balter often referred to Gomez as Kurin’s “partner” because at times during the events that are subject to this litigation they were married and at times they were not. Balter’s characterization of Kurin and Gomez as a “couple” is correct and on information and belief, is still correct. As discussed at length above, Kurin was found by UCSB to have retaliated against students, full stop. The use of the term “guilty” is in dispute between the parties but is not evidence of defamation. Kurin’s retaliation against students who reported Gomez’s abuses, in Balter’s opinion, constitute an attempt to cover up his misconduct. Even if Kurin disagrees with Balter’s choice of words, they are in essence true and cannot constitute defamation. According to the Title IX findings, Kurin stopped cooperating with the investigation at UCSB right after the allegations were made clear to her (Exh X.) There is no mention in that document that investigators no longer wanted to hear her evidence, and Balter suggests that this statement is unlikely to be true. Balter stands by his statements that the archaeology community is “frowning” upon Kurin, based on his extensive conversations with archaeologists across the US and internationally. Balter’s statements about UCSB’s attempts to deprive Kurin’s fellow faculty of information about the 2016 are true and well supported by witness statements. The anthropology faculty were kept in the dark about the reasons for Kurin’s three year administrative leave; only a few faculty were told the reasons and they were told not to divulge them. Kurin herself told a number of colleagues, falsely, that she had been “exonerated” by the Title IX process. It is true that the chair of IFR’s governing board, archaeologist Willeke Wendrich of UCLA, told Balter in an email that he was publishing falsehoods when he wrote that IFR knew about the Title IX long before it admitted that it had. Balter will prove at trial that Wendrich lied not only to Balter but to her colleagues at UCLA, and that she and other board members found out about the Title IX no late than October 2016. In that sense, IFR did indeed participate in a coverup, and has continued to do so, possibly to avoid legal liability for the sexual assaults that then took place during the 2018 field school, when IFR was responsible.
71. Defendant Balter agrees that he has used available social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter, to publicize his reporting, just as almost all reporters do including at the Washington Post and the New York Times (just as an example, NY Times reporter Maggie Haberman Tweets dozens or hundreds of time each day, promoting both her own articles for the Times and those of other colleagues.) Before Balter was a #MeToo reporter, he also Tweeted all of his stories about megalithic monuments, the newly found fossils of human ancestors, and the latest species of dinosaurs. As a #MeToo reporter, Balter has found that continual dissemination of his stories has led to real action against sexual abusers and justice for their victims.
72. Same answer as No. 71.
73. Same answer as No. 71.
74. Defendant Balter has already responded to these assertions above. Balter stands by his reporting and statements in each and every case mentioned in this section. Except for the previously mentioned dispute over the meaning of the word “guilty,” over which honest people can disagree and which does not rise to defamation, Balter again asserts his opinion that Plaintiff Kurin has sought to mislead the Court about the findings of the various investigations concerning her. She was in fact found to have retaliated against students in UCSB’s investigation and Balter’s findings that she created and maintained the conditions under which Gomez was able to repeatedly harass and assault students justify the contention that she enabled him.
75. Balter agrees that he published the blog mentioned by Kurin.
76. Balter agrees that he posted the blog on Facebook, for the reasons described above.
77. Balter agrees that he published this link.
78. Balter agrees that he published the blog cited but denies that any of his statements were defamatory.
79. Balter stands by his statements about the IFR and its attempts to cover up its knowledge of Kurin’s prior misconduct, and will prove those statements at trial.
80. Balter agrees that an anonymous poster wrote those words on his blog. Since these blog posts were published, literally hundreds of individuals, many members of the archaeology community, have commented on the ongoing reporting, as is their right.
81. Balter agrees that he published these comments but denies that they were defamatory. Balter again notes that Kurin’s disagreements with the use of the word “guilty” are designed to mask the greater truth that she was found by UCSB to have retaliated against students, a finding that she has dishonestly and misleadingly sought to hide from this Court throughout this Complaint. Balter admits to being perplexed as to why Kurin thought that he, as the Defendant in this lawsuit, would not bring the Title IX findings to the Court’s attention. Balter speculates that Kurin may have thought that Balter would quickly settle this matter and delete all his blog posts for fear that Kurin would win the litigation and ruin him financially, which is her clear intention. Balter actually has no such fears; and even if he did, his duties as a reporter would require him to continue reporting and writing about both Kurin and the progress of this litigation.
82. It is true that Balter moderates his blog, but he rarely censors any comments and only does so when he considers there is a compelling reason. Since this is literally Balter’s Blog, Balter is free under the First Amendment to monitor and control its content.
83. Kurin refers to a “Rogue’s Gallery” that Balter maintains on his blog of investigations he has conducted. The gallery includes a number of categories of abusers, including bullies. Balter’s interviews with witnesses confirms that Kurin is widely considered a bully among her colleagues. For example, she has not infrequently invoked the name of her father, Richard Kurin, a senior official at the Smithsonian Institution, and threatened colleagues that she would get him to ruin their careers if they crossed her. This behavior goes back at least to the time that she was a graduate student at Vanderbilt University, according to witnesses who have know her that long. As previously stated, Balter stands by his statements that Kurin has enabled Gomez.
84. Balter denies that his statements are defamatory, and stands by the intensive reporting that have led to them.
85. Balter denies that anything he has said about Kurin is defamatory. As for whether it is “injurious,” Balter concedes that if negative information is revealed about an individual, that could be harmful to them; but as the reporter, Balter bears no responsibility for the consequences the truth has on Kurin. Kurin’s speculations as to Balter’s motives are wrong and she has no factual basis on which to make such statements, other than her own desire to deflect the Court’s attention from her own misconduct.
86. Balter denies the asssertions by Kurin in this section, as stated above.
87. Balter agrees that he has discussed his reporting about Kurin’s misconduct on social media, but denies that anything he has said is defamatory, as discussed above. Balter agrees that he has expressed his protected opinion that Kurin does not deserve tenure at UCSB. While Kurin interprets this as malice towards her, Balter is actually motivated by the concerns expressed by many other archaeologists that Kurin is a proven danger to students and should not be allowed to have contact with them.
88. Kurin again brings in the fashionable phrase “cancel culture” to describe Balter’s motivations for reporting truthfully about her. Remarkably, even at this point in her Complaint, Kurin has offered no theory as to why Balter would have malice against her, especially as he has never met her in person. The reason for that is simple: Other than his disapproval of Kurin’s misconduct, Balter has no other reason to be antagonistic towards her.
89. In this section Kurin correctly estimates the large number of individuals who have read Balter’s reporting on her, which is not defamatory but based on factual reporting. Kurin is flat wrong when she asserts that were it not for Balter’s writings, Kurin’s reputation would be unsullied. As described above, Kurin’s had a long reputation for bullying students and retaliating against them long before Balter had ever heard of her. The main reason these facts did not become public earlier is that there was wide fear that Kurin wold retaliate aginast them, and also fear that she might bring litigation against them as she has done in the present case. Indeed, after the Title IX investigation concluded and Kurin’s administrative leave was extended to three years by UCSB (not by Balter, please note) Kurin sued the Regents of the University of California because they did not give her a promotion she thought she was entitled to even though she had been subjected to disciplinary action. Kurin did not prevail in that lawsuit.
90. As stated previously, Balter not only denies that he knew his reporting was fault, but asserts that it is true, and that he will be able to prove such at trial. Thus Kurin’s speculations as to his motives are as irrelevant as they are wrong.
91. Plaintiff Kurin makes the following statement: “Balter acted with overt malice, hatred, and ill will towards Kurin. Balter’s blogs repeatedly demand that Kurin not be granted tenure and that she otherwise be banned from any
kind of gainful employment. His whole purpose is to destroy Kurin and generate fame for himself in the process.” As stated previously in this Answer, Balter denies that he has malice, hatred, or ill will towards Kurin, nor that he has any reason to harbor such feelings, even though the bringing of a dishonest litigation against him might well give Balter reason to feel that way. As previously stated, Balter’s opinion—shared by many archaeologists—that Kurin should not receive tenure is protected speech. Balter denies that he is out to destroy Kurin. As for generating fame, after a career in journalism of 42 years, Balter did not need the fame that this very depressing, disturbing, and unfortunate investigation has attracted.
92. The letter by Ran Boytner cited by Kurin is filled with so many lies and falsehoods that there is not space to go over those details here. Kurin fails to mention that shortly after Boytner wrote this letter, he was terminated by IFR due to what Willeke Wendrich, chair of IFR’s governing board, told colleagues was a “breach of trust.” By information and belief, Balter’s reporting has found that a long history of misconduct on Boytner’s part also played a major role in his termination. Kurin’s use of him as a witness on her behalf is very telling of her alliance with and sympathy with abusers.
93. Balter stands by his statements about the letter, as indicated in No. 92 above.
94. Much as Balter appreciates having his writing about these matters characterized as “poetic,” he also stands by the content of that reporting in every instance and denies that it is false or defamatory.
95. Balter agrees that he published the cited blog, and stands by the facts reported in it.
96. Balter agrees that he republished the blog, but denies that his statements are defamatory. Balter contends that they are true.
97. Balter did not “brag” about how much attention his reporting received. Rather, Balter expressed gratification that it was so widely read, so that colleagues could be aware of the truth and UCSB would act in the light of that truth.
98. Balter denies that his statements are false and asserts that they are backed up by extensive reporting that continues to this day. In fact, since this litigation was filed, additional witnesses have continued to approach Balter to tell their stories of abuse, retaliation, bullying, and other misconduct by Kurin.
99. Balter stands by the veracity of his reporting and writing about Kurin as referenced in this section. Further, based on his reporting, Balter stands by his assertion that Kurin, in a variety of ways, has continued to try to intimidate victims of her misconduct, including after this litigation was filed with the Court (see below.)
100. With this section, Plaintiff Kurin begins to describe reporting and writing that Balter has done since this lawsuit was filed with the Court. Kurin seeks to convince the Court that by continuing to report accurately on both Kurin and the lawsuit (especially as new facts continually come to light thanks to witnesses who are very angry that Kurin has filed this action against a reporter who revealed her misconduct), Balter is continuing to defame her. This could only be true if the reporting and writing Balter continues to do is false, but it is not. In this last section of the Complaint, Kurin’s aim is to get the relief she seeks from this litigation without having to actually go through the litigation process. Thus in her request for relief, she asks this Court to order Defendant Balter to delete all of his reporting about her, a request for prior restraint impermissible under the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court rulings on the First Amendment. As stated above, Kurin is clearly hoping that Balter will “cave” in the fact of the expense and pain of defending this lawsuit, and delete his reporting of his own accord. But to do so would not only violate Balter’s professional ethics, it would also betray the many victims and survivors of abuse who have put their trust in Balter to help them tell their stories at long last. Thus Balter denies all of the contentions in this section, as stated previously.
101. Balter agrees that he published the blog Kurin cites.
102. Kurin again discusses the proper use of the word “guilty,” and rightly quotes Balter as saying that he meant this term in the “colloquial” sense rather than in the sense of a finding in a civil or criminal trial. Since the use of this word is in dispute, it was reasonable for Balter to try to clarify what he meant by it. Kurin seeks to use Balter’s own attempts to make his meaning clear as evidence that he has defamed her. This twisted logic cannot stand, and it certainly cannot be used as evidence for defamation.
103. It is true that Balter allowed a comment to be published on his blog suggesting that Gomez had earlier raped women. Balter did this because he is currently pursuing his own investigation of these allegations, and the possibility that Gomez was indeed convicted of rape but that the records of those crimes have since been expunged. In other words, Balter was aware of these allegations even before the comment was made on the blog. Based on information and belief, Balter believes there is a high possibility that they are true. But since Gomez is not a party to this litigation, any such statements cannot be considered defamatory to Kurin. Balter has not said, nor does he say now, that Kurin knew about these allegations. But since Gomez is also a subject of Balter’s reporting, they are relevant and probative to the overall question of what kind of man Kurin allowed to have contact with the students she was responsible for, and what kind of man she married.
104. Balter agrees that he responded to “Anonymous” and asked this individual to get in touch. Since Balter did not know the commenter’s identity, the only way Balter could communicate with the commenter was via his blog. This is bog standard reporting and journalistic technique, especially in the internet age.
105. Defendant Balter denies that he was obliged to come to the conclusions that Kurin insists on, especially if, as seems possible based on his reporting, any such records have now been expunged. Gomez’s family is very well connected in his home town of Andahuaylas and as a reporter Balter has to consider this possibility.
106. Balter agrees that he published the blog cited, which was an interview with a #MeToo activist in which Balter described his reporting methods and his motivations for covering this beat.
107. According to the records Balter has examined (salaries of University of California faculty are public records) Kurin was on paid leave for all three years. If Kurin can demonstrate that this is wrong, Balter will happily publish a correction of his good faith reporting on these factual matters.
108. Balter agrees that he published the blog post indicated, but denies that any of his statements were defamatory.
109. Balter contends Kurin has attempted to mislead not only this Court but also her colleagues at UCSB of the status and nature of her partnership and marriage to Gomez. Firstly, when Kurin returned to UCSB in the fall of 2019, she falsely told numerous colleagues that she was already divorced from Gomez. In fact, she wanted all of her colleagues to think that she had made a clean break with Gomez, and thus lied about when the divorce was final (December 1, 2019.) As stated above, Balter has multiple witnesses that Kurin continued to associate with Gomez throughout 2019, and to sleep with him when she was in Peru. Balter regrets that he has to delve into Kurin’s personal life but it is relevant to this litigation and Balter contends that Kurin is not telling the Court the truth about it.
110. It is true that in this very rare case, Balter deleted a few comments that he felt defamed a researcher, after looking into the matter and concluding that she had been maligned. Kurin seems to imply that this courtesy should have been paid to her as well; unfortunately, the facts did not justify it.
111. Balter agrees that he published this blog post but denies that anything in it was defamatory.
112. As stated above, it is true that Balter obtained Kurin’s divorce records, only after receiving indications that she and Gomez were still together when they were in Peru. Kurin has no real way of knowing whether Gomez was convicted of rape before he knew her, for obvious reasons; Balter is not contending that she knew, although he does not dismiss it as a possibility (no decent reporter would.)
113. In this section, Kurin paints a picture both of her interactions with Gomez and of Gomez’s home in Andahuaylas which, according to multiple witnesses, is totally false. Balter did originally write that Kurin was in Gomez’s bedroom, in a misguided attempt to defer to her privacy. What two witnesses actually told Balter is that she slept with him in his bed as she always did when in the city. Balter stands by this reporting, and rejects all allegations that it is false or defamatory. In essence, Kurin has misled her colleagues about this ongoing relationship because she feels she cannot get tenure at UCSB unless she can convince the university that this relationship ended in August 2018 as she told the California divorce court. It did not.
114. Balter’s statements about Kurin keeping to her bedroom, and her giving students marijuana, are based on multiple witnesses to both of these behaviors. Balter contends that Kurin is simply lying to the Court about these matters.
115. Balter contends that Kurin has indeed been contacting potential witnesses in the present litigation and that such contact has had a very intimidating effect. This pattern of behavior is habitual for Kurin who has been doing it for many years, and her methods for doing so are amply documented in the June 2016 Title IX findings. As for the conduct of Kurin’s attorney, Balter does not wish to comment on that at this time, but reserves the right to do so at trial.
116. Balter does not yet know whether the rape allegations against Gomez are true. Again, he allowed those comments to be published on his blog as part of his reporting, including encouraging possible witnesses to approach him with evidence. Since Gomez is not a party to this litigation, statements that Balter has made about Gomez are not defamatory unless Gomez wishes to bring an action and prove that they are; and again, since Balter is not claiming that Kurin knew about these alleged rapes, he has not defamed her. She cannot be held responsible for any behavior by Gomez she never knew about, but by the same token, she must accept responsibility for conduct she did know about and continued to expose students to.
117. Balter agrees that he published the blog post cited, but denies that anything in it was defamatory.
118. Beginning in this section, Kurin shows a callous disdain for the female student I have called Student No. 3, who was sexually assaulted by Gomez at her 2018 field school. At the time, and since, Kurin has never once accepted any responsibility for what happened, never apologized to the student for her ordeal, never expressed sympathy for the trauma and pain she continues to suffer. All Kurin cares about is protecting her career from the evidence of her repeated misconduct. In this blog post, Balter allows Student No. 3 to express her own protected opinions and feelings about what happened to her, her interpretations of the role that Kurin played in her ordeal, and what she thinks should be done about it. This is protected speech, and Kurin’s disrespect for a sexual assault victim is just more evidence that she has enabled the man who attacked her.
119. Balter agrees that he published this blog post, but denies that anything in it was defamatory.
120. Balter again denies that there was anything false and defamatory in his reporting about the sexual assault by Kurin’s then husband of Student No. 3. Balter again expresses astonishment at Kurin’s callous disregard for the feelings of a sexual assault victim, who she sweeps aside in her rush to cover up her own role in her ordeal.
121. Again, remarkably, Kurin deflects attention from a sexual assault victim trying to get justice, in this case by writing to the Chancellor of UCSB, and portrays herself as the victim in this case. Student No. 3, who revealed her identity to the Chancellor, has every right to seek redress in any way she can, and Balter, as the reporter on this investigation, has every right to report on it. There is no defamation here, but there is a continued attempt to intimidate victims of Kurin’s misconduct at every opportunity.
122. The anonymous commenter on Balter’s blog that Kurin quotes has every right to express their opinion about what should be done about Kurin’s misconduct; Balter’s own statements are true and not defamatory.
123. Balter agrees that he has been very active on Twitter about Kurin, especially after she filed this litigation, which is his Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Again, Balter stands by his truth of his reporting and the factual basis of the statements he has made. As stated above, Kurin is trying to get the relief she seeks at trial right now, this month, by threatening Balter that if he continues to report on her misconduct he is tainting the jury pool. The right of a litigant to discuss, write about, and defend his statements—especially the right of a reporter to continue to publish the results of his reporting—should not be taken away by such threats, even if the reporter wants to shout the truth as he sees it to the skies and call press conferences every day. (As an employee of the ACLU during the 1980s, working on a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department for spying on peaceful political groups, Balter himself called press conferences nearly every week and shared discovery documents with reporters, in the process giving his own opinions about the culpability of the LAPD. No one argued that the ACLU did not have the right to do this or that it would taint the Los Angeles jury pool.)
124. Balter totally denies that he is “out to destroy” Kurin, and Kurin gives no theory as to why he would want to do this. Since his allegations are based on factual reporting, any gratification that Balter might take that his work is widely read does not constitute defamation.
125. Balter has agreed numerous times (see above) that it is his protected opinion that Kurin does not deserve tenure, based on the overwhelming evidence of her misconduct over many years.
126. It is true that the Stanford Archaeology Center rescinded an invitation to Kurin to speak and that Balter played a role in this. A colleague informed Balter that Kurin was due to speak at the Center. The director of the Center is an archaeologist whom Balter has known for 22 years. Balter, concerned the Center did not know about the allegations concerning Kurin and might be embarrassed by having invited her, contacted the director and gave him the relevant information. Balter did not urge the director to cancel the talk but simply provided the information. The director became concerned on his own part and the talk was cancelled. Balter’s actions are constitutionally protected and do not constitute defamation since he did not provide any information that was false to Stanford.
127. Since Balter has not stated any falsehoods at all about Kurin, any repetition of those statements by others is irrelevant to the issues in this litigation.
128. Kurin makes the following statement: “In January of 2020, Kurin nominated a potential Ph.D. grad student to the UCSB program. The student was excited, as she was to be awarded a very generous package of support
while working toward her Ph.D. and had come to the UCSB campus for a visit. Somehow,
during that visit, Balter learned of private, Personally Identifiable Information about this
prospective student, and then contacted and hounded her via email, wrote numerous lies about
Kurin to her, and coerced her into withdrawing her candidacy.” The first two sentences of this statement are true. The last sentence is completely false. The student, while visiting UCSB, was contacted by both faculty and students in the department and warned about Kurin’s history, which included not only enabling of sexual abuse in Peru but abuse of students at UCSB itself. This abuse has been known in the department for many years and predates her administrative leave from 2016-2019, and certainly predates Balter’s knowledge that Kurin existed. One member of the department asked Balter to send the student links to his reporting, which Balter did. Balter sent the student one email to which she did not respond. Everything Balter told the student was true. Balter did not “coerce” the student into withdrawing her candidacy, nor was he in any position to do so. The student withdrew of her own accord after having been accurately informed about Kurin’s behavior.
129. Balter agrees that in his role as an investigative reporter, he contacted members of the UCSB anthropology department to ask them to talk to him about their experiences with Kurin. Balter made no defamatory statements of any kind to these faculty members.
130. Balter does not dispute that Kurin has very positive teaching skills, that is when she is not abusing students or engaging in inappropriate behavior in class (Balter is actively reporting on allegations along those lines.) But Balter is not responsible for the reactions of students who find out that her own university concluded she had engaged in misconduct.
131. Kurin’s statement that Balter was the only source of the information that Kurin had been found to have retaliated against students who reported her partner Gomez’s sexual harassment is absurd and irrelevant, since that information was true and factual.
132. The incidents at Stanford have been described above. Balter had no role whatsoever in the cancellation of any speaking engagements at UCLA nor anywhere else. The UCLA faculty are free to decide for themselves whether they want to believe Balter’s reporting on Kurin.
133. Balter denies that his statements about Kurin are false or defamatory.
134. Kurin states that she has “no choice” but to sue Balter. Balter sees things differently. Balter believes that Kurin is desperate to salvage a tenure bid that is very much on the rocks due to the exposure of her misconduct, and that she is trying to silence the reporter who has made that misconduct public. Balter believes that Kurin is also trying to silence witnesses and survivors of harassment and assault who might provide evidence to the tenure committee, including by filing new Title IX complaints as some have done this year. Balter further believes that Kurin is hoping to intimidate both the anthropology faculty and the university into giving her tenure, by implicitly threatening to sue them too if they do not. Of course the university and the faculty are aware that Kurin sued the university previously when she did not get a promotion she felt she deserved.
135. Any damage to Kurin’s reputation is entirely due to her own actions. Balter’s role has been primarily to bring the truth about her misconduct to light, as is the role and responsibility of a reporter. Any of Kurin’s colleagues are entirely free to form their own opinions about the matter, as is Balter himself. Thus Balter owes no damages whatsoever to Kurin, and requests the Court to deny her demands.
136. As explained above, Balter does not have malice towards Kurin, and does not want to destroy or ruin her. Balter has already stated his protected opinion about whether she should get tenure.
137. Since Balter has done nothing wrong, and has acted at all times as an ethnical and professional reporter, there is no basis on which to award Kurin punitive damages. Balter asks that the Court reject this demand.
COUNT 1—LIBEL PER SE
138. Defendant Balter denies each and every allegation by Plaintiff Kurin listed above.
139. While the statements in this section mischaracterize Balter’s reporting about Kurin, Balter stands by the accuracy, to the best of his belief and knowledge based upon his work as a journalist, that he actually did publish.
140. To the best of his knowledge based on his own reporting, interviewing of witnesses, and examination of documents, all of Balter’s statements about Kurin are true. If it turns out that Balter has made any errors in his reporting—which he does not presently admit to—they would have been made honestly. Balter denies that any statement he reported or wrote about Kurin is false.
141. Since Balter’s statements are true, there is no privilege to assert other than his First Amendment rights as a journalist to write the truth as he finds it.
142. Balter has no malice towards Kurin, and in addition, he denies every statement made in this section, as detailed throughout this Answer.
143. Balter did not “target” anyone, but he did contact a large number of sources for his reporting about Kurin, as is normal practice for any journalist. While not all of the individuals contacted cooperated with Balter’s reporting, many did, and their corroborated testimony provided much of the information included in Balter’s reports.
144. Balter agrees that a very large number of people have seen his reports, and, like any other reporter, is happy that his honest journalism has attracted so much attention. Balter believes that widespread dissemination of information about misconduct in academia is key to bringing it to an end.
145. Plaintiff Kurin states: “As a direct and proximate result of the false and libelous articles published by
Balter, Kurin has suffered and will continue to suffer public hatred, contempt, scorn, and ridicule.” Balter contends that all of his reporting about Kurin is honest and accurate, and that any negative consequences she has suffered are the result of her own misconduct and is entirely her responsibility.
146. Balter has never accused Kurin of committing a crime. He has made no false and defamatory statements about Kurin. Balter has expressed his opinion only as to whether Kurin should receive tenure at UCSB; Balter’s opinion is protected speech under the First Amendment of the U.S Constitution.
147. Kurin’s statements about Balter’s motives are unfounded and she provides no evidence for them. Kurin’s statements are tainted by the fact that, as detailed above in this Answer, she ignores and/or distorts the evidence and history that Balter’s reporting has helped to expose misconduct by numerous academics, who, in very many cases, have been disciplined by their own institutions. In doing this reporting, Balter has helped many victims of abuse tell their stories, sometimes after many years of suffering the consequences of the abuses. Balter’s reporting is a public service, and should not be hampered by the attempts by Kurin, whose misconduct is amply documented, to paint a false portrait of him and his work.
COUNT II—SLANDER PER SE
148. Defendant Balter denies each and every allegation made by Plaintiff Kurin in her Complaint, as detailed in the Answer above.
149. Balter denies having slandered Kurin, and repeats that his discussions with the individuals mentioned were carried out as part of his normal work as a reporter; and that those discussions and interviews revealed considerable evidence of misconduct on Kurin’s part. Balter disagrees with Kurin about the colloquial use of the word “guilty,” but asserts that his use of that word does not constitute defamation given the documentation of her misconduct. Balter has reported the opinions of a number of Kurin’s colleagues that she is a danger to students.
150. To the best of his information and belief, based on his extensive reporting about Kurin, Balter’s statements about her are true.
151. Since Balter’s statements about Kurin are true based on his information and belief, there is no privilege to assert, other than that of a reporter operating under Constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press.
152. Balter has no malice towards Kurin, and his communications with her colleagues and former students were the routine work of a reporter investigating allegations of misconduct.
153. As stated above, any harm suffered by Kurin is the result of her own misconduct over many years, long known by students and other colleagues years before Balter had ever heard of Kurin and begun reporting and writing about her. Indeed, as stated above, it was those colleagues who brought Kurin to Balter’s attention and cooperated in his investigation. To put it simply, Kurin has reversed cause and effect in blaming Balter for any harm to her reputation, which is entirely her own fault.
154. Plaintiff Kurin mischaracterizes Balter’s statements about Kurin, as detailed in this Answer above; Balter further denies that he has slandered Kurin in any way, since what he has reported about her is true based on his information and belief.
155. Defendant Balter rejects Kurin’s speculations as to his motives and repeats that his reporting has served the public good by bringing to light many cases of misconduct, often resulting in discipline by the institutions involved.
COUNT III – INTERFERENCE WITH CONTRACT AND PROSPECTIVE ECONOMIC ADVANTAGE
156. Defendant Balter denies each and every allegation in Kurin’s Complaint against him.
157. Balter agrees that Kurin was scheduled to speak at Stanford and UCLA.
158. Balter has no knowledge of the extent to which the Stanford and UCLA speaking engagements would have helped Kurin’s career and tenure bid at UCSB, but he makes no argument with these statements.
159. Balter was made aware of Kurin’s Stanford speaking engagement by a third party who had knowledge of Kurin’s history of misconduct. Balter was not aware of the UCLA speaking engagement, although he did hear afterwards that it had been cancelled.
160. Balter denies that any of his reporting about Kurin was or is false or defamatory.
161. All contact that Balter had with Kurin’s current or former colleagues and students was made as part of his normal work as a reporter.
162. Any statements Balter has made about whether or not Kurin should receive tenure is opinion, albeit based on the results of his accurate and detailed reporting, and is protected speech under the U.S. Constitution.
163. Balter denies that he acted with malice and that he “targeted” Kurin’s activities.
164. Balter cannot speak for Stanford or UCLA and their thinking processes when they cancelled Kurin’s speaking engagements. In the case of Stanford, Balter agrees that he shared the results of his reporting with the director of the Archaeology Center, but Balter did not urge any particular action upon him. Balter had no knowledge of the UCLA speaking engagement, as stated above.
165. Balter repeats that his reporting was in the public interest and resulted in institutional investigations and/or disciplinary proceedings in many cases. Balter adds that his reporting has been widely hailed and appreciated in the scientific community, due to an increased awareness of the need to fight misconduct and abuses.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
Balter asks the Court, based on the evidence he is able to present in this case, to deny Kurin all of the relief she seeks, because he has not defamed her, nor slandered her, and because his reporting about her was honest and accurate to the best of his knowledge and belief, and because he holds no malice towards her.
(a) No compensatory damages are due to Kurin in any amount, for the reasons stated above.
(b) No punitive damages are due to Kurin in any amount, for the reasons stated above.
(c) The Court should not order Defendant Balter to delete or retract any of his reporting, not only because his reporting is accurate, but because such an order would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
(d) Since Balter has not made any false or defamatory statements about Kurin, any order that he cease to report on her misconduct (and the course of her tenure process) would be unconstitutional under the First Amendment.
(e) Defendant Balter asks the Court to award him all costs and attorney’s fees he has incurred in defense of this dishonest and frivolous lawsuit, brought in an effort to silence not only his reporting, but to silence the victims and survivors of her proven and documented misconduct. Balter also believes that Kurin is attempting, through the vehicle of this lawsuit, to intimidate her colleagues in the UCSB anthropology department and in the university at large into giving her tenure whether or not she rightly deserves it. Kurin should not be compensated nor rewarded for trying to use the court system to serve these ends.
Defendant Balter asks the Court to defer judgement on Kurin’s demand for a jury trial until a future date.
The Amended Complaint should be viewable at this link: https://www.courtlistener.com/docket/17254796/4/kurin-v-balter/
Please let me know if anyone has any trouble accessing it.
“Balter’s real purpose is not to help victims of abuse”.
As a victim of abuse formerly helped by Balter, I find it extremely offensive that Kurin would simply dismiss my experience offhand. What gives her the right to speak on my behalf, and many others like me?
Did the student herself define this as “coercion”, or is it Kurin’s interpretation? If I was a prospective graduate student unknowingly entering into a toxic advisor situation, I’d be grateful to anyone who’d have warned me about it. In fact, it’s a very common practice these days to ask around before taking the Ph.D. plunge. And since I am an adult and an intelligent person, I would have also made my own educated decision after carefully weighing and confirming any given information, as I am sure was the case of the above student.
She seems to think that Michael Balter wrote this comment; he did not—I did. I would include more information proving that I am a former UCSB Anthro grad student, but Kurin has been found "with a preponderance of evidence" to retaliate against people who speak out against her.
I don't know why Kurin would have a difficult time believing that other people share this opinion. I presume most people have come to the same conclusion—that she remains a danger to students given the 2016 Title IX findings against her and the subsequent events at her 2018 IFR field school.
“37. The reviews are consistent with Balter’s own admission of his voyeuristic tendencies on pp. 135-136 of the 2006 edition of the book that “Since the diaries [of archeologists] were available online for everyone to read, peeking voyeuristically into other peoples’ musings soon became a favorite pastime.” Balter, The Goddess and the Bull: Catalhoyuk--An Archaeological Journey to the Dawn of Civilization (Left Coast Press ed. 2006).’
When the actual, full passage reads:
“Except for the Friday break, when the archaeologists could venture into Çumra, Konya, or wherever else they could get to and back from within one day, there were few opportunities to escape from Çatalhöyük. The entire team was pretty much stuck on the site day and night, with little to entertain them. Since the diary entries were available online for everyone to read, peeking voyeuristically into other peoples’ musings since became a favorite pastime” (ibid).
“The entire team” who read those diaries naturally included project director Prof. Ian Hodder as well as other reputable Turkish and international archaeologists. There is absolutely no admission on Balter’s part for having any “voyeuristic tendencies” and, in fact, those diaries are still posted online for all to read (http://catalhoyuk.ege.edu.tr/database/catal/diarybrowse.asp). As Balter further acknowledges in his book, those diaries also served as yet another device to enrich the archaeological recordation within the project’s post-processual framework, which advocated reflexivity, multivocality, and the role of the individual in the production of knowledge. That the Plaintiff would use such cheap de-contextualisation tactic just to make a case for voyeurism, is simply sick.
One final thought: I really want to believe that such substandard scholarship is the work of an overzealous paralegal who was tasked with “finding dirt” on Balter. Because if it is Kurin’s, then she is a poor scholar who certainly does not deserve to get tenure.
“The above-detailed actions of Balter were undertaken not just to harm Kurin, but were part of a pattern of similar conduct aimed at dozens of individuals and institutions in academia and the scientific community in order to damage an industry that has repeatedly rejected Balter because of his outrageous, irresponsible, irrational, and otherwise harmful behavior.”
Luis Jaime Castillo made the exact same claim in his interviewed rejection of Balter’s accusations. Making such a claim, of course, implies that Kurin actually knows that these “dozens of individuals” are in fact not guilty of the crimes they are accused of. In order to do that, Kurin would have needed to refute not just Balter, but also dozens of victims’ and expert testimonies, coverage by scientific journals, institutional public statements, and court verdicts.
“IFR did indeed participate in a coverup, and has continued to do so, possibly to avoid legal liability for the sexual assaults that then took place during the 2018 field school, when IFR was responsible.”
These sexual assaults took place not just “when IFR was responsible” for the field school, but directly because IFR had created the conditions that allowed these to happen in the first place. After the 2015 harassment case and 2016 investigation, UCSB placed Kurin on an administrative leave and UCLA canceled her field school. What did IFR do? They offered her a seat on their board and the sexual harassment committee. Then they granted her the directorship of several field schools, sometimes more than one season per summer, with dozens of students each. They removed Gomez Choque’s name from their website, but knew he was still directly involved. When UCLA refused to award credits to this field school, IFR offered the program first without credits and then with Connecticut College credits. They even let Kurin direct another field school only a week after the 2018 assaults took place, and while she was under their investigation. The investigation was conducted by the same people who were responsible for all of the above and was handled extremely poorly. Citing risk of litigation, they are now refusing to reveal any details including the names of others who were found responsible for inappropriate behavior against students.
The financial logic behind the above is clear. Kurin’s field school was very popular and more students = more $$$. But the real reasons are much more complex and entrenched in a corrupt system. First - getting rid of Kurin back in 2016 would have meant retaliating against one of their own and admitting they were wrong to accept her in the first place. Second - Boytner perceived Kurin as victim of the system and vouched for her, since he himself was terminated from UCLA following sexual harassment allegations. Third - by the time of the 2018 assaults several board members were already fully aware of Kurin’s and Boytner’s Title IX cases and history, so were stuck neck-deep in web of lies that would have implicated them as well. Instead, they kept quiet and hoped that the truth will never come out.
The result: Kurin kept running her field schools, IFR kept feeding her students, and Gomez kept harassing them.
IFR are not just trying to avoiding legal liability. They are trying to bury their direct culpability. They too will have to answer for those students whom they have knowingly put in harm’s way.
As someone close to these cited circumstances, I resent Kurin’s implications that faculty and students are dupes who act blindly on everything they read online. Instead, organizing committees would conduct their due diligence and consult independent sources. When theres a reason to believe that any scheduled speaker may pose a potential risk to the community, even if based on allegations, they have a responsibility to postpone or cancel a speaking engagement until these are fully investigated and sorted one way or the other.
Thanks to all who have made comments and suggestions on the Answer. I plan to file it with the Court on Monday, the day before it is due, so still happy to hear from anyone who wants to weigh in.