Worldcon 76 Filings for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz Defamation Suit Now Online

San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (Worldcon 76) last month filed a motion for summary judgment in the defamation suit brought by Jon Del Arroz (see “Worldcon 76 Moves for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz’ Defamation Suit”.) The court finished posting those documents online today.

The full set of documents can be downloaded free of charge from the Superior Court of CA, County of Santa Clara court’s Case Information Online website – search case number 18-CV-334547.

Made available below are two key documents, the 26-page “Defendant’s Memorandum of Points And Authorities in Support of Motion For Summary Judgment” and the “Declaration of Kevin Roche” (chair of Worldcon 76 held in 2018).

80 thoughts on “Worldcon 76 Filings for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz Defamation Suit Now Online

  1. Charon Dunn: And now it’s before the court that JDA’s writings are “egregious stupidity”.

  2. That deposition given by JDA is one massive Dunning-Kruger self-own. And it’s hilarious that he has no idea how badly he’s incriminating himself.

  3. @Mike It’s in a statement of undisputed facts and backed up by his own words, like many of the other undisputed facts, such as the one about how he is a popular journalist and/or cultural comentator.

    I’m enjoying the depo excerpts attached to defense counsel’s dec as an exercise in autopodiatric marksmanship.

    Q. Okay. And on your website, you present yourself to be recognized as a popular journalist and/or cultural commentator … is that based on your publication with The Federalist?
    A. Yes.
    Q. Based on anything else?
    A. No. I guess my blog, yeah.

  4. I am not clear on what Jon Del Arroz claimed about Cat Rambo in his deposition for this case, but he’s been making false statements claiming she attacked him for a long time. I did some fact gathering in 2018 to explain the truth.

    Of all the people in science fiction who’ve tried to achieve notoriety through bad behavior, Del Arroz has to be the most boring. There’s nothing about his obsessively cultivated shitposter online persona that rewards the time put into learning about him.

  5. This is the key statement, as far as understanding Jon’s motives:

    The more controversial he is, the more publicity he acquires and the more traffic he generates for his various online sites and accounts, all of which translate into more money for his books and businesses.

    He does things that attract attention because attention gets him book sales. Even this law suit is motivated by his desire to get publicity. When he loses it, he’ll milk that for all it’s worth.

    I personally think this is a really bad strategy–yes, you want your works to shine, but not merely because you’re so radioactive–but he seems to think it works for him.

  6. The lawyers (or law office clerks, more likely) who have to spend their working day dealing with this have my sympathy.

  7. steve davidson: what’s the title for that deposition? I’m not finding it easily on the court’s website

    It’s in the “Declaration of Lindsey V. Pho in Support”.

  8. @Johan P
    I don’t think the lawyers working for Worldcon und its members have it that bad. Its their job, the have (I hope) not that much kontakt with Jon and an easy to win case. Take that I can think of worse clients than the chair of a worldcon and other oficials and the (okay small) publicity makes that somethink not bad for the resume. That it is a strange case, with one side saying a lot of very strange thinks okay, but I don’t think that is such a bad think for the lawyers.
    I think the defendents need our sympathy much more, that they had to endure all this.

  9. I remain a bit confused that to call someone a racist and a bully is not defamatory.

    I take the point that the SFSFC statement rather danced about whether JdA is a racist or a bully, but it doesn’t seem a terribly unreasonable interpretation.

  10. @NickPheas: If you’re a bit confused about that, it means you’ve confused defamation with something more general like “saying bad things about someone.”

    Defamation in the legal sense is libel or slander. It has to be false, malicious in intent, and something that a reasonable person would interpret as a statement of fact rather than opinion.

  11. Elements for defamation are (1) false statement; (2) made/published to 3rd party; (3) about plaintiff; which (4) damages plaintiff’s reputation; and (5) costs plaintiff $. Defense counsel have authored a very solid MPA arguing that none of these elements have been met.

    Next, plaintiff’s counsel must write an opposition to the MSJ (I’m stocking up on popcorn for this), and answer/reply/rebut every last one of the numbered statements in the separate statement of undisputed material facts. Defense may write a reply to the opp. The judge (and or his clerk(s)) will then write a tentative opinion which will come out before the May hearing, the parties will argue and either there will be a ruling for summary judgment or trial prep will commence.

  12. Charon – what are the odds of this going to trial? Discovery would be interesting.

  13. I will never ever forget someone mentioning in a party that JDA considers himself “the leading Hispanic voice in science fiction”, and the confused/annoyed response of Ty Franck of “I’M Hispanic!”

    Ty, of course, is the co-author of the wildly popular award-winning series “The Expanse”, which spawned the really nifty TV show, of which he is also one of the producers.

    And both his mom and his abuela were migrant farm workers, which is basically Peak Hispanic-ness.

  14. I’m not going to speculate about trial; anything can happen including offers to compromise and settlement. Discovery has already happened – interrogatories, requests for admissions, and plaintiff’s deposition. Discovery is not generally public record but may be attached to a motion as evidence. A MSJ is an attempt to resolve the case before trial by proving to the judge that plaintiff doesn’t have a case.

    Right now the entire future of the case is in plaintiff’s counsel’s hands. He must draft a rebuttal to the MSJ and argue his case for defamation, persuading the judge his argument is stronger than that of defendants. He has a strict time limit, and faces significant public exposure. The whole case depends on him, and his reputation and income will be directly affected by his skill in putting words together (and formatting tables in Microsoft Word). Litigation is a very stressful career path. IANAL and do not give legal opinions (aside from call your local state bar referral and find a lawyer to answer your legal questions because internet commenters have about a 98.7% accuracy rate) but I’m more experienced with civil litigation (and formatting tables in Microsoft Word) than many and don’t mind explaining procedure.

    Sergio Aragones’ Groo the Wanderer is an epic hero who will withstand the test of time and thus he gets my vote for most bueno.

  15. Yeah, nobody’s ever heard of Gabaldon and her book and TV series either. Which does not in any way involve time travel.

    Sergio Aragones is Spanish/Mexican/Hispanic-American, incredibly prolific, and very nice in person. I got an autograph and doodle from him, and a Groo picture for my brother in 2-3 minutes. Then I went to his panel presentation, which was about an hour of him just drawing magnificent stuff. This was at an SF convention, and Groo is a Marvel/Image/Dark Horse Comics character, so…

  16. I finally put on my hip boots and waded through JDA’s sworn deposition excerpts, and “shambolic” is too kind a word. He made Worldcon’s case for them.

    He doesn’t remember when he did anything, nor know how exactly how many followers he has on Twitter/Gab/FB/YouTube, when and how many times he’s been interviewed.

    AND he has no records of exactly how much money he’s made on his books via direct sales at cons, which makes his claim for damages useless.

    (It’s in the “Pho Declaration”, about halfway down — go ahead and scroll past the copies of his Tweets, etc.)

    And thanks to Kevin’s link, I see the “Undisputed Facts” JDA’s lawyer has to rebut separately number 84. That’s gonna take a while.

  17. @Charon Dunn: Nice summary. Because I am an utterly incorrigible nitpicker, I do have to take issue with one thing:

    Elements for defamation are (1) false statement; (2) made/published to 3rd party; (3) about plaintiff; which (4) damages plaintiff’s reputation; and (5) costs plaintiff $. Defense counsel have authored a very solid MPA arguing that none of these elements have been met.

    I don’t think that point 3 has been seriously contested. (I agree that the defense counsel did an excellent job of demolishing the other four.)

  18. @David — I’m a professional nitpicker. Here is the pertinent jury instruction (CACI 1701) . I wish you success in your quest to reinterpret the elements for a defamation claim in California and speculate that I’ll probably hear about it should you succeed.

  19. Eli on March 9, 2021 at 9:17 am said:
    @NickPheas: If you’re a bit confused about that, it means you’ve confused defamation with something more general like “saying bad things about someone.”

    I suspect it’s a transatlantic thing. The British courts are much easier to bring a libel case than the US ones, which colours my thinking. Also I am not a lawyer, I even see heretical links like “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” as somehow implying that the arms should be used as part of a well regulated militia in defence of the free state and not by anarchists against it. How dumb can you get?

  20. NickPheas: How dumb can you get?

    Sadly, in the U.S., a great many people will be very happy to demonstrate to you just how incredibly dumb they can get. 🙁

  21. This is a relatively minor thing, but according to the Pho Declaration, JDA claims he expected to sell 60-100 books at WorldCon for a profit of $1200-$2000, which comes to a $20 profit per book.

    The new book he was launching is priced at $12.99 on Amazon. His recent books are all either $12.99 or $15.99.

    Either JDA is really, really bad at math, or else he was planning some obscene price-jacking on his books.

  22. Jim C. Hines: Those two are the more forgiving alternatives. There’s a third option I think is more likely….

  23. I think this is the first time that something of mine has wound up in a court case. (one of JDA’s tweets to me)

    No one could have predicted that some of his attacks would be used as evidence against him. No one.

  24. @Jim C Hines
    So he was expecting to sell them for an average price of $20? When people could get them from some other dealer for cover price?
    Not thinking it through, or sure that everyone will want to pay extra for his signature.

  25. @P J Evans – If he’s claiming $20 profit per book, that means he’d have to price them at his cost + another twenty. Probably $25 to $30 each would be my guess.

  26. Two little tiebits about Jim C. Hines find.
    First: For the rest of the case that is completly irelevant (if I am not completly misunderstanding american law) because he did loose that sales because he was disinvited, not because of the defamation in question.
    Two: 60-100 books seems for a single writter a bit much to sell at Worldcon, if the books aren’t somethink very special.

    About leading voice: I want to mention George Perez and Guillermo del Toro as other important hispanic creators.

  27. P J Evans: So he was expecting to sell them for an average price of $20?

    Jim C. Hines: If he’s claiming $20 profit per book, that means he’d have to price them at his cost + another twenty.

    I think you’re both giving him too much credit for actually thinking.

    I think she asked him for sales numbers and dollar amounts, and he just threw wild-ass aspirational guesses out there which he thought would make his case for damages for him, without stopping to do the math.

    According to Amazon and ISFDB, he had 3 physical books released by the time of Worldcon 76. Assuming that each sold 20 copies, subtracting Amazon’s author POD cost from the retail price would have given him $561.80, less than half of the minimum $1200 he claimed.

    But he doesn’t have any record of sales at other cons in 2018 to back up his estimate, and I don’t think he would have sold anywhere near 60 of his books at Worldcon 76, especially after his behavior leading up to it. As has always been the case, he wildly overvalues himself and the quality of his writing.

  28. @Charon: You said “Defense counsel have …argu[ed] that none of these elements have been met” and I pointed out that one of them was — that the various statements at issue were in fact about the plaintiff.

    I do agree a) that the statements weren’t defamatory and b) that the defense made a very strong argument to that effect — and I said so. So I’m not sure where “your quest to reinterpret the elements for a defamation claim” is coming from.

  29. @JJ: I suspect you’re right. It’s all WAG with him. Mr. Hines, of course, is a kind and generous man and wouldn’t have thought of that.

    Self-pub through Amazon gives the author a LOT more money through Kindle sales than paperback books, IIRC. No way JDA could make $20/book in profit unless he was pricing it in the $30-40 range, and nobody’s going to buy that even (or perhaps especially) at Worldcon. Not when there are so many dealers with brand new hardbacks and paperbacks, and with rows and rows of lovely cheap used ones. Not that I bought anything like that at the con. whistles

    As for being “prominent”, I can honestly say that I’ve attended all the lit cons in the area for decades, and a number of the media ones, and the ComicCons, plus tech events, and I’d literally never heard of him. Ever.

    But once he filed this suit, he started getting interviewed by PJ Media, the WSJ, and other right-wing outlets. He got a TON of publicity, which he wouldn’t have if he’d shown up at the con and behaved himself. Kind of contradicts his claims.

    @Charon: Okay, so there’s 84 separate “Undisputed Material Facts” his lawyer has to respond to (even if just with “agreed”). But that takes time, and has to be perfectly formatted. Plus anything else that needs replied to.

    I’m thinking Ms. Pho and Nguyen, Esq. are both really conversant with this, and probably have a legal secretary or paraprofessional who can do this formatting in her sleep in their high-powered firm. Their firm probably does this sort of case all the time as a matter of routine. Certainly the deposition extracts looked very professional and polite.

    Whereas JDA’s lawyer seems to be a sole proprietor, meaning he and/or his one or two employees are going to have to look it up and do it themselves. And I don’t think he specializes in these kinds of cases. Anyway, it’s going to take them more (billable!) hours. Under a strict deadline. With less experience.

    If I was JDA’s lawyer, I’d be begging for an out of court settlement to make it go away quietly. Actually, I wouldn’t have taken the case to begin with. Pretty much everyone loses when the case goes to court.

    Let’s not forget Worldcon 76’s Artist GoH/Hugo MC, John Picacio — winner of Hugo, World Fantasy Award, Chesley, Locus, etc. etc. Marvel, ASoIaF, dozens of book covers, All that lovely artwork on the program book, badges, etc. Indubitably Latinx.

    (Even here in the year 3890)

  30. @David: they don’t rise to the legal standard for defamation, I think is what. IANAL and the only case I have been involved in was for medical reasons.

    It is really, really hard to prove libel, slander, defamation in the US.

    Righties really like the 1st Amendment for their freeze peach, but it’s a double-edged sword.

    (Still in 3690. Wonder how shoggoth is?)

  31. I am not a lawyer. Based on my reading of various discussions of other defamation cases, however, I think there’s a subtle distinction that should be made. Below is all my opinion (and offered mostly so someone can tell me I’m wrong)

    As Charon notes the jury needs to determine if the defendant made the statements, and the statements were false, injurious, etc…

    However, the judge needs to make at least one other determination before a case can go to a jury – were the statements statements of fact, or opinion. The defendant’s filing argues that “Plaintiff Cannot Prove That The Statement Issued By WorldCon Was False Statement Of Fact.”

    If the case came to a jury (because the judge decided that Worldcon’s statements were purported facts) then the jury would use the elements that Charon lists. But before that the judge will decide if the statements are statements of fact – and if they’re not, there won’t be a jury.

    TL/DR – in the jury instructions, “statement” means “statement of fact” – because by the time it gets to the jury, the judge has already decided “this statement is opinion or purported fact.” – but we’re not at that point yet.

  32. @David – I’m not offering opinions on any of the arguments/contentions such as whether the identity element has been met, particularly given that the issue of whether plaintiff is a public figure/limited public figure is discussed at length in the motion. I am only offering information with regard to how this procedure works in California, by giving basic information as to the elements of the claim and the motion for summary judgment process.

    You made the choice to attempt to “nitpick” my straightforward explanation of procedure by offering your opinion on the assertions in the motion. This choice was unfortunate, incorrect, obstreperous, unfounded, inaccurate, misplaced, egregious and/or silly and is demonstrative of a poor command of nitpicking.

    Whether the elements have been met is a matter for the judge, and I therefore have no opinion on whether the motion will succeed, or whether there will be a trial, or whether the elements for defamation should be different, or whether the identity element is met, or how much the court reporter charged for that deposition. Although I can say to Lurkertype that they typically provide transcripts in pdf and txt formats that can easily be excerpted into motions. And you usually have to wait a couple days while they correct their initial speech-to-text version. And they charge a lot.

    To win on a defamation claim, a plaintiff must prove certain things. Defense has presented a well-drafted motion suggesting plaintiff can prove none of these things; plaintiff must now provide an opposition. Then the judge will issue a ruling. If you think the identity element is moot, fine, that’s an opinion that a person might have. It is not in any remote sense a correction of the factual information which I have presented and I object strenuously to same.

    /legalese off

    @Lurkertype — if they agree to everything, then they agree they don’t have a case. If plaintiff maintains he does too have a case, he’s going to need to produce a stronger argument than defense counsel.

    Big law firms have an onsite department that deals with formatting of legal documents. Medium firms outsource to document geeks who work via remote. Small law firms have one overworked geek who drinks a lot of coffee. You can tell from the number at bottom right on the memorandum of points and authorities that defendant firm’s document management system has over four million documents in memory, and this motion went through five drafts before it was finalized. I’m fairly certain the lawyers typed it themselves; most lawyers under fifty do their own keyboarding with occasional formatting/research help from paralegals and secretaries. Law geeks tend to be hyperlexic.

    And with regard to earlier concerns about whether the defense lawyers were enjoying themselves defending this suit, I think the love letter to SpongeBob toward the end of the request for judicial notice may indicate that they were, although I’m not necessarily endorsing that opinion. I have been exercising considerable restraint to keep from stating anything that might even resemble an opinion about this legal morass in public.

  33. @Andrew. Pretty good summary. One distinction: the judge is ruling over whether the MSJ is correct in its assertion that plaintiff has failed to meet the requisite elements. The judge is not ruling on whether the statements are true but rather whether plaintiff is credible and has a case. It’s a little like a medical diagnosis, if you have A+B+C+D+E you have disease X, but only if you have the complete set of symptoms. If the judge rules the elements haven’t been met, game over, but if the judge thinks there is a lawsuit here, then it goes to a dozen people (and two alternates) who couldn’t figure out how to get out of jury duty.

  34. @Charon Dunn

    it goes to a dozen people (and two alternates) who couldn’t figure out how to get out of jury duty.

    Kind of an unfair characterization of jurors, there. I’ve been called to jury duty, and felt like that it was an obligation of being a citizen, like voting. I’d bet most feel the same way.

  35. @Bill:
    We don’t have a jurysystem here, but I think that people may different depending on the case. I mean I understand doing your duty, but for Johns case I really doubt that the entusiasm is high.

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