On January 5, my attorneys in the Kurin v. Balter defamation case sent a letter to the judge (Vincent Briccetti of the Southern District of New York, White Plains branch) asking him to consider an early motion for summary judgment in light of New York's new "anti-SLAPP" law and other developments. The background and details of our letter motion can be found at this link.
Yesterday, January 7, Judge Briccetti ruled against us, "without prejudice," meaning that we can renew our request for summary judgement after discovery in the case has been completed (on the current schedule, that would be in May.) Please see below for the judge's brief decision.
In his ruling, the judge apparently agreed with certain arguments made by Kurin's attorneys (for a link to their response to our letter motion, please see here). Among other arguments related to the applicability of New York's anti-SLAPP law to our case, the plaintiff argued that our motion was premature and that "This Case is Not Ripe for Summary Judgment."
Naturally we are disappointed in the ruling, because we considered that the new law was very relevant to our situation, because it is intended to prevent frivolous lawsuits. Such lawsuits can stifle free speech, causing pain and suffering to journalists and others, expense for both sides, and needless waste of court resources.
On the other hand, we are still very confident in the strength of our case--which relies heavily on the validity of my reporting about Danielle Kurin--and we believe that discovery will only strengthen that case when we do move for summary judgement later on. My reporting was based on solidly documented evidence of Kurin's misconduct, along with a number of supporting sources and witnesses, and the continuation of the case will only lead to more facts about that misconduct coming out in the case and publicly.
Speaking personally, and giving my constitutionally protected opinion and belief, I was astonished at the boldness with which lawyers for Kurin attempted to mislead the judge about the facts of the case. I should not have been, because Kurin's Complaint against me is absolutely chocked with falsehoods. But let me pick up on a few examples.
1. Kurin's attorneys begin their letter to the judge with prominent mention of an ethics complaint that has been filed against me with the National Association of Science Writers, the professional organization that I have been a member of since 1986. As I detailed in an earlier blog post, that complaint, concocted by a group of anthropologists who have long opposed my #MeToo reporting and leaked to the plaintiff, has not yet been adjudicated. That means I have not yet been given an opportunity to respond to the false allegations, and may well be acquitted in the process. Flagging it to the judge in the first paragraph of their letter was a blatant attempt to prejudice the judge against me.
2. Kurin's attorneys misrepresent the circumstances under which Science ended my contract after 25 years of service, clearly hoping the judge would not read the document they linked to which clearly demonstrates that they quoted me out of context.
3. Kurin's attorneys told the judge that I had engaged in "harassment... so severe and pervasive that over two years ago, one of the individuals targeted by Mr. Balter committed suicide." Again, Kurin's attorneys were apparently hoping the judge would not read the post they linked to, which explains the circumstances and puts the blame squarely where it belonged--on the accused harasser's own institution.
4. Kurin's attorneys falsely suggested to the judge that I had tried to destroy evidence that would show I posted anonymously on my own blog. That is untrue; I have never destroyed evidence nor do I post anonymously on my blog.
5. Once again, Kurin misrepresents the circumstances of the Title IX findings against her in 2016, that she retaliated against students who reported her then fiance, and later husband, for sexual harassment. Those findings led to a three year administrative leave, from which she only returned in fall 2019.
As the case continues, we are accumulating documents and witness testimony that support my reporting about Kurin. At its heart, this lawsuit is about the rights of survivors of abuse to tell their stories free of retaliation and intimidation. It is also about the freedom of journalists who help survivors do that. The fight goes on.
(Please contribute to the case's Legal Defense Fund.)