Del Arroz vs. Worldcon 76 Update

On April 24, Jon Del Arroz’ attorney Peter Sean Bradley filed a request with the Santa Clara County Superior Court to dismiss 18 of the 19 named defendants from his lawsuit against Worldcon 76. That will leave only San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. still before the court. SFSFC Inc. is the parent corporation of Worldcon 76 (held last year in San Jose).

Reportedly, none of defendants being dismissed ever received service of process as required by California law (i.e., formal notice of the legal action.) They are: David W. Gallaher, David W. Clark, Lise [sic] Detusch [sic] Harrigan. Kevin Standlee, Sandra Childress, Bruce Farr, 2018 SMOF Con Committee, Cheryl Morgan, Kevin Roche, 2018 Worldcon (Worldcon 76), Cindy Scott, Randy Smith, New Zealand 2020 Worldcon Agent Committee, Andy Trembley, Jennifer “Radar” Wylie, CostumeCon 2021 Organizing Committee, Lori Buschhaum, and Susie Rodriguez.

The request is for dismissal “without prejudice,” leaving Del Arroz the right to re-file the suit against them at a later date (until the expiration of the statute of limitations).

In February, the court tossed four of the five causes of action in Del Arroz’s lawsuit against Worldcon 76’s parent corporation. The case continues on the fifth complaint, defamation. Del Arroz kept open the option of seeking a jury trial by paying the required advance jury fee (nonrefundable) of $150 on April 17.

33 thoughts on “Del Arroz vs. Worldcon 76 Update

  1. I’m just waiting for his rant when he loses and has to pay costs.

  2. IANAL, so I have no clue how the plaintiff’s attorney is going to convince a jury that his client suffered emotional and financial damage once the defendant’s attorney enters into evidence screenshots of the plaintiff’s crowdsourced comic book fundraisers and the plaintiff’s tweet of him on a boat during Worldcon. Case law is weird.

  3. Adam Rakunas I went to the same law school you did; I suspect however that things will not get even that far; it will rest on the fact that Worldcon is not a public entity and can restrict membership however they want to and beyond that, the Plaintiff repeatedly acted in ways that would have gotten anyone banned, even absent supposed threats to break convention privacy policies.
    I think the question will rest entirely on whether or not a private organization (501c3) can control its memberships, and maybe, perhaps, whether or not that organization, with a contract giving it control of the convention center, can restrict public entry (both of which seem to be pretty straightforward issues).

  4. @Steve —

    As I understand it, those questions have already been answered — the judge already dismissed all but one portion of the lawsuit.

    The only element remaining to be decided is the question of defamation. Jon claims that he was defamed by the sentence stating that Worldcon doesn’t accept “bullying or racist behavior”.

    And aside from the issue of damages, IMHO it will be incredibly easy for the defense to prove that the statement in question was not at all defamatory. As we all know, truth is an absolute defense against such claims.

  5. Adam Rakunas I went to the same law school you did;

    Remember our school’s fight song?

    We’re gonna fill up those search boxes
    We’re gonna write out those search strings!
    We’re the Fightin’ Queries of Internet U
    And we look up all the things!

    Oh, we don’t have accreditation
    And no one gets degrees
    But that doesn’t stop us from sounding off
    Go, go, go, Fightin’ Queries!

  6. IANAL either, too busy working to go to law school. But since I’m between jobs (lackadaisically searching because I have 30 years of trial-related experience and expect little difficulty once I apply myself), and therefore can’t be remotely construed to be speaking on behalf of any particular attorney or law firm …

    Now plaintiff must establish through discovery (depositions, interrogatories, document requests) the requisite elements of defamation: that defendant
    (i) Made a statement and someone understood it was about plaintiff; and
    (ii) The statement was false; and
    (iii) This false statement cost plaintiff some $$$.

    Plaintiff must convince 12 people who couldn’t get out of jury duty that this is true in order to prevail.

    In addition to various non-lawyer law jobs, I have also worked as a psychic fortune teller, and I predict plaintiff will fail to establish said elements and defendant will then bring, and win, a motion for summary judgment and/or summary adjudication as to the surviving cause of action. This statement does not constitute legal advice, is based on Saturn being in Capricorn along with a dream that I had about frogs drinking tea in a gazebo, and is made for entertainment purposes only.

  7. Does anyone know a date for any further proceedings? If one has been posted, I’ve missed it.

  8. Can anyone clarify if the suits were dropped because some window of opportunity expired (e.g., JDA failed to serve them papers on time), or if JDA’s attorney did this because he knew that serving papers against those 14 people would be a waste of time?

  9. becca on May 14, 2019 at 11:40 am said:

    Can anyone clarify if the suits were dropped because some window of opportunity expired (e.g., JDA failed to serve them papers on time), or if JDA’s attorney did this because he knew that serving papers against those 14 people would be a waste of time?

    I assume it was because what evidence JDA thinks he has on the remaining defamation claim didn’t apply to the other names.

  10. Becca: At the pre-trial conference earlier this year, JDA’s attorney Bradley agreed to file the paperwork dropping the complaint against the un-served defendants.

  11. My impression of this thing is that JDA, who I think consistently comes across as slightly less rational than an overcooked stalk of broccoli, appears to have convinced himself that “someone said/wrote something that upset me” is viable grounds for a lawsuit.

  12. Dear Steve,

    “…it will rest on the fact that Worldcon is not a public entity and can restrict membership however they want …”

    Oh for God sakes, no no no no NO. Not even legally close.

    The Worldcon is a public, paid-admission event. There is no question of that. It places no restrictions on membership qualifications. You pay the admission fee, you’re in. Calling it a “membership” rather than a “ticket” has no legal significance whatsoever. That the admission fee also gives you access to the WSFS business meeting and Hugo voting doesn’t change that, because these are not the primary activities and functions. An insignificant minority attend the business meeting — that is not what they are buying their tickets for. A larger but still small minority fraction vote on the Hugos. But that can be done by buying a supporting (considerably cheaper) rather than attending “membership.”

    The vast majority of people who buy memberships by it for the show. That is even the intent — how prominently do the business meeting and Hugo voting appear in the promotional literature and on the website for Worldcons? Really.

    No court or jury in California will believe that this is a private club. I’m not sure there is any court or jury in the US that would. It doesn’t come close to passing the sniff test.

    As a publicly-accessible event, Wolrdcon cannot discriminate against certain protected classes, defined by California’s Unruh Act. These include discriminating on the basis of race, religion, sex, age, disability and gender orientation. The Act is not restrictive — by design, new classes can be added, by statute or case law. That’s how gender orientation came under the Act.

    If Worldcon’s reasons for rejecting someone don’t fall under one of the protected classes, they are free to do what they want. That does not leave them free to discriminate at will.

    JDA’s initial charge against Worldcon was that they refused him membership because he was an Hispanic. That WOULD be illegal. When the artist guest of honor and several concom members pointed out how self-evidently ridiculous that was, he changed the claim to that they were discriminating against him on the basis of being a neoconservative.

    The problem with that is that political affiliation is NOT a protected class. It could become one in the future (I found one case from decades ago that attempted that line but it appears to have gone nowhere). But as for now, it isn’t — JDA would have to break new legal ground to get that one to fly. This was not a particularly good case for doing so (again, looking at both attendees and guests).

    So he’s down to “slander.”

    Meanwhile, fergodsakes, stop promulgating this nonsense that cons can discriminate at will because they’re private associations. it doesn’t fly and it would get someone who is stupid enough to follow that advice in big trouble.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  13. Ctein on May 14, 2019 at 5:02 pm said:

    Meanwhile, fergodsakes, stop promulgating this nonsense that cons can discriminate at will because they’re private associations. it doesn’t fly and it would get someone who is stupid enough to follow that advice in big trouble.

    I’m not sure I have much sympathy for anyone who would seize upon an excuse to discriminate–especially, but not exclusively, those who would discriminate against protected groups. By all means, let us give these folks a chance to expose themselves.

  14. Pingback: Pixel Scroll 5/14/19 The Ship That Scrolled | File 770

  15. @Laura —

    slightly less rational than an overcooked stalk of broccoli

    LOL! That really ought to be somebody’s motto somewhere.

    @Ctein —

    No court or jury in California will believe that this is a private club. I’m not sure there is any court or jury in the US that would. It doesn’t come close to passing the sniff test.

    Ehhhhhhh, I still think the defendants could win such a lawsuit with the private membership angle — but since the relevant portions of this lawsuit in particular have already been dismissed on less contentious grounds, I think we can just agree to disagree. Unless, maybe, Jon decides to try it again. 😉

  16. Dear Xtifr,

    Politically you know I totally agree with you. But, unfortunately, the only way such people expose themselves is by discriminating against someone, and I have more primary concerns about those being discriminated against. Pragmatically speaking, I don’t care if someone is a bigot in the privacy of their own brain, so long as they never act on it.

    Now if you can figure out how they can expose themselves without doing harm to somebody else, I’m in!

    ~~~~

    Dear Pingback,

    Hahaha, you can tell I’m not a lawyer, because I said “no court or jury.” Any lawyer worth their salt knows that anything can happen once or in court, although some things are exceedingly unlikely.

    I would very much hate to see that defense work and be upheld on appeal, because it would open the doors to almost any public event being able to discriminate by claiming it was a “membership” organization. I’d far rather see fandom lose that ‘right’ than see everybody gain it.

    For what very little it’s worth, there have been court cases where groups have asserted that something was a private event because a business meeting for the organization was held during the event. Courts have been pretty consistent that that in itself is not sufficient unless it was a predominant activity of the event.

    Anyway, totally agree with what you said, that this is happily an academic conversation. May it ever remain so!

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  17. Pingback: Jon Del Arroz’s History of Trolling and Harassing

  18. Taking up the argument that WorldCon is not a club or membership forum, but rather a public event open to any ticket holder…. Ticket holders are ejected or excluded from events all the time on the simple basis that they are not wanted there due to their behavior or their non-compliance with this-or-that guideline (including mode of dress, as in “no shirt, no shoes = no entry”).

    Restaurants and bars evict people for being disruptive, and businesses often maintain private blacklists of people they decline o deal with because they’re disruptive or behave badly. Public places, such as retail shops, often deny entry to people who are disruptive. though all the rest of the world is permitted to enter.

    I currently work part-time as a historic tour guide, and my boss allows me to order anyone I find disruptive to leave the tour and to advise them never to return for another one. (I have never needed to do so, and I’ve guided thousands of people in 3 years. So far, I find that if someone is really disruptive on a tour, they leave voluntarily after I suggest it, without my having to insist.)

    I’ve been in live theatres, movie cinemas, and night clubs where someone was ejected for behavior that annoyed staff, management, and/or attendees.

    I have no idea what the legality is of a policy whereby a ticketed event declines to sell a ticket to someone because they know that person is a disruptive jackass, but in real-world terms, it’s not an unusual practice.

    Since JDA posted public comments stating his intention to behave badly at WorldCon, and since he has an established pattern of bad behavior (see: http://www.jimchines.com/2018/01/jon-del-arroz/), which I would think realistically mitigates or eliminates any claim that his threat to behave badly should not have been taken seriously or was a “just a joke,” etc…. It seems like his most devastating legal argument about being banned from WorldCon would be something like, “By banning me, they denied me the opportunity to engage in behavior, as I publicly stated I intended to do, that would have gotten me ejected from the event if I had attended.”

    Which seems about as rational as his only actual remaining claim against them in his lawsuit, which is hat they have “defamed” him by stating they don’t want bullies and bigots at their event.

  19. @ Contarius:

    “LOL! That really ought to be somebody’s motto somewhere.”

    Well, it certainly seems far more accurate than “the leading Hispanic author”

  20. Dear Laura,

    What you said!!!

    And … because some fans seem to be very unclear on these concepts:

    Being a member of a protected class doesn’t mean you can’t be refused entry. It only means you can’t be refused entry because you’re a member of that class. JDA could declare himself to be a 65-year-old disabled transgender Muslim of Hispanic heritage (bingo!) and the con could still refuse him membership based on him announcing he wasn’t going to play by the rules.

    There is an ongoing argument in convention fandom over whether “prior restraint” is appropriate, but that’s an argument about custom and etiquette. Legally, there’s no argument — yes they can.

    – pax \ Ctein
    [ Please excuse any word-salad. Dragon Dictate in training! ]
    ======================================
    — Ctein’s Online Gallery. http://ctein.com 
    — Digital Restorations. http://photo-repair.com 
    ======================================

  21. @Contrarius: Indeed, it appears (according to Santa Clara County Superior Court’s ironically inadequate online case records) that further proceedings haven’t been scheduled. Remember, civil litigation tends to be molasses-slow by Internet standards.

    @Camestros:

    I assume it was because what evidence JDA thinks he has on the remaining defamation claim didn’t apply to the other names.

    I rather think not.

    Naming defendants but then failing to serve process upon them is a rather significant violation of the court rules in this and every other jurisdiction (of my interested-layman acquaintance), so Mr. Bradley and Mr. Del Arroz (reportedly) having failed to serve 18 named defendants exposed (if the report is accurate) plaintiff and plaintiff’s attorney to potential court sanctions, and them requesting the 18 named defendants’ dismissal before the court decides to hammer them is IMO an example of prudent if overdue retreat.

    As I’ve said before, I’ve seen serious litigation (and been a nominal co-plaintiff , and this is very little like it. Expecting to fund a complaint via GoFundMe, (reportedly) not bothering to even pay a private detective to find defendants’ addresses so they can be served, and repeatedly failing to spell parties’ names correctly keeps saying to me ‘bullshit PR campaign to dazzle the rubes as long as possible’ rather than serious legal action.

    IMO, Messrs Bradley and Del Arroz are, on the whole, rather lucky to not be facing (it appears) court sanctions. And, if I’d been in SFSFC’s position, I’d be taking measures to make clear that filing Potemkin Village legal actions has uncomfortable consequences.

  22. Dear Rick,

    While it might be satisfying to retaliate against our Favorite Infamous Local Author, it would also be just what he’s after– more drawn out drama and publicity he can use to claim he’s being persecuted by dos libs.

    For some, this could be seen as a win-win, but I see it as a lose-lose.

    pax / Ctein

  23. @Ctein: ‘Satisfying’ isn’t in it: The proper framing is deterrence.

    It might be a generational thing, but yr. humble servant gravitates towards behaviourism (that I understand has been eclipsed by cognitive psychology, yet I remain old-school): The way to discourage baseless, expensive, and time-wasting abuse of the courts is to ensure that it hurts. (My opinion, yours for a small fee.) The self-proclaimed martyrs behind such cases will try to claim cheap celebrity on Twitter (e.g,, ‘more drawn-out drama and publicity’) either way; the only difference is their ending bank balances. So I’d say arrange for that be small. As, y’know, deterrence.

    Plus, there’s the Mark Twain thing: When Twain got tired of people saying “What a pity [1880s Standard Oil tycoon] H. H. Rogers’s money is tainted”, he drawled back “It’s twice tainted: ‘Tain’t yours, and t’aint mine.”

  24. Anybody local able to go in and look at the court records on today’s protective order granted against someone for something undisclosed in the online case information portal?

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