Worldcon 76 Moves for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz’ Defamation Suit

The attorney for San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc., defendant in Jon Del Arroz’ defamation suit, filed a motion on February 17 requesting summary judgment in hope of getting the case dismissed without trial.

San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. is the parent corporation of Worldcon 76, held in San Jose. Del Arroz sued SFSFC in 2018 after the Worldcon 76 committee announced he would not be allowed to attend the convention (“Del Arroz Files Suit Against Worldcon 76”; “We have taken this step because he has made it clear that he fully intends to break our code of conduct….”)

In February 2019, 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. 

Santa Clara (CA) Superior Court Judge Socrates P. Manoukian has set a hearing on the motion for summary judgment on May 11. If the motion is not granted, the case is scheduled for a jury trial beginning June 14.

Under California Code of Civil Procedure section 437c(c), a motion for summary judgment “shall be granted if all the papers submitted show that there is no triable issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law.”  

The introduction to SFSFC, Inc.’s motion states:

…Plaintiff is a science fiction author who has built his writing career on a marketing strategy that involves pitting himself against other professionals in the science fiction industry in order to increase his visibility in the media and on social media sites. This lawsuit is simply an extension of these tactics, this time with SFSFC as yet another victim of Plaintiff’s abusive behavior – the same behavior which prompted SFSFC to prohibit Plaintiff’s attendance at the Convention in the first place. Plaintiff has, throughout this litigation, used the lawsuit as a catalyst to self-promote and garner attention, which has increased his notoriety, and his book sales.

As set forth herein, Plaintiff will not be able to prove the essential elements and, thus, his defamation claim fails for any of the following reasons: (1) the statement is not defamatory; (2) calling someone a racist or a bully is a non-actionable expression of opinion, rhetoric or hyperbole; (3) the statement falls under the common interest privilege; (4) Plaintiff cannot prove actual malice; and (5) Plaintiff cannot prove special damages. Because no triable issue of material fact exists to salvage Plaintiff’s claim, summary judgment is warranted….

43 thoughts on “Worldcon 76 Moves for Summary Judgment in Del Arroz’ Defamation Suit

  1. Has San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. done any crowdfunding to afford to defend itself in this ridiculous lawsuit?

  2. @rcade —

    Has San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. done any crowdfunding to afford to defend itself in this ridiculous lawsuit?

    They may not need to. It may be covered by their liability insurance.

  3. rcade: Has San Francisco Science Fiction Convention Inc. done any crowdfunding to afford to defend itself in this ridiculous lawsuit?

    As I recall, they have a couple of attorneys who volunteered to represent them in this pro bono.

  4. Our liability insurance did not cover the claim, and the pro-bono work, while much appreciated, ended some time ago. We are paying for our attorney.

  5. I note the strength of the “what damage has been done, since you’re using this to actively promote your work and claim to be singularly successful?” point. Feels like JdA keeps trying to have it both ways. Shocking no one, really…

  6. “who has built his writing career on a marketing strategy that involves pitting himself against other professionals in the science fiction industry in order to increase his visibility in the media and on social media sites”

    Yup, that’s JDA all right

  7. D Franklin: I note the strength of the “what damage has been done, since you’re using this to actively promote your work and claim to be singularly successful?” point.

    The incredible part is that he has spent the intervening years since the lawsuit was filed posting enormous amounts of harassing and abusive tweets and blog posts, as if he was deliberately wanting to give Worldcon 76 more evidence to support their decision.

    JDA has to be one of the biggest self-owns I have ever seen.

  8. JJ say The incredible part is that he has spent the intervening years since the lawsuit was filed posting enormous amounts of harassing and abusive tweets and blog posts, as if he was deliberately wanting to give Worldcon 76 more evidence to support their decision.

    JDA has to be one of the biggest self-owns I have ever seen.

    I don’t see any realistic way that JDA stands a chance of winning this lawsuit, so Worldcon should be able to get this thrown out.

  9. Here’s hoping they get this creep off their back. Can the court order the plaintiff to reimburse WorldCon’s legal costs if the case is dismissed without trial and after the other allegations were already tossed out? This has been an expensive nuisance for the con, and they shouldn’t suffer financially just because some smarmy opportunist tried to gain notoriety by filing a crackpot lawsuit against them.

  10. Can the court order the plaintiff to reimburse WorldCon’s legal costs if the case is dismissed without trial and after the other allegations were already tossed out?

    I am a lawyer, but I am not barred in California, and this case is entirely being conducted under California law so take all of this as moderately educated guesses.

    The direct answer is maybe. Fee shifting is very rare in civil cases in the U.S. and most of the time each party is responsible for its own legal fees regardless of the outcome. However, given that this is phrased as a defamation case, California has an anti-SLAPP law that may apply, although I have no idea if SFSFC’s motion to dismiss qualifies as a special motion to strike as defined in that law, and therefore have no idea if they qualify for fee shifting under that provision.

  11. This could be one of those TV Law shows episodes: the defendant is successful in getting the case dismissed, then turns around and sues the author for embezzlement/theft: he used Worldcon as a “partner” in his marketing and promotion of his business and failed to compensate them for their “work”. (Likewise numerous others).
    The assets and revenues of the various works being insufficient to cover what is owed, rights to those works are transferred instead (pyrrhic victory) and an on-going interest in anything the company (or its assigns, inheritors or successors) may produce, in perpetuity.

    (One year of law school. You can tell.)

  12. @rcade: When Del Arroz’s lawsuit was originally filed, there was some discussion here on File 770 about people wanting to financially support SFSFC’s defense. I suggested that they could just send a check to SFSFC, but the response I got was (paraphrased, not literal): “What’s a check?”.

  13. I received a check from my grandmother once! It was a bit more than 40 years ago and was very exciting. I got to use it with my BANKBOOK!

  14. I currently have a cheque from my godmother that I need to pay in, but there aren’t any banks in town anymore so it has to go off in the post. No idea where my chequebook’s got to, though, or even if it still works.

    I suspect the previous thread got swarmed by us European Filer contingent types. :p They’re not used much over here.

  15. I write checks, because it’s easier that setting up online access for two accounts. I average about five per month.

  16. I still write checks regularly – it’s a soothing practice for me (since I spend far too much time on a computer anyway). Recent difficulties with mail have led me to move towards electronic payment, but at the rate I’m going, I’ll be writing checks once or twice a week for the remainder of my life.

  17. I had to drive thirty minutes to cash a check from my publisher earlier this week, because my bank does not have a branch in my small town. But it was an excuse to experience a different selection of fast food, so yay.

  18. I haven’t written a cheque in 25 years or so and even back then, I rarely used them.

    Occasionally, I receive some tax return payments from the US. These always arrive in the form of a cheque, which I then have to take physically to my bank to pay it into my account. At the sight of a cheque, younger bank clerks usually run to get a senior clerk, who will swear, because those checks are a lot of hassle and work to deal with. I also have to pay a handling fee of 12 EUR for the privilege of paying the cheque into my account.

  19. The last time I consistently had to cash checks was back when I was getting honorariums from Barnes and Noble SF Blog.

  20. The last time I had to deposit a check, I used the bank’s mobile app to do it from home. Snap snap, send, wait, done.

    Of course, that was before The Long Christmastime, which so far shows no signs of abating. (My mother LOVES her Christmas movies. She started watching them sometime in November, I think… maybe even late October, but as soon as the streaming collections started showing up. She’s STILL GOING, aside from a brief respite for Valentine’s Day. There is no escape. Send cookies.)

  21. Like Rev. Bob, on the rare occasions I get a physical check, usually but not always from the US government, I open up my bank’s mobile app, and deposit it without muss, fuss, or awkward trips to the bank.

  22. What’s your name, man?
    Socrates Manoukian.
    My name is Socrates Manoukian.
    And I can’t wait ’til this lawsuit’s done.
    I can’t wait.
    I can’t wait.

  23. Hmmm. We get checks all the time and actually prefer taking them to the bank for deposit. Of course, our bank branch is only three blocks away and there are a three more within five miles.

  24. When I was a kid, my parents set up my very first checking account for me in my own name. Because I was a kid, it did not list me as a legitimate signatory. I could not cash checks and I could not write them without my parents signing on. (I also needed my parents to get them to correct the spelling of my first name–they had it as Nichole–and my parents just never got around it.) For some reason, that was the only checking account I had until I left home for college and set a new one up at a bank within walking distance of my dorm room.

    Even now, more than 20 years later, every time I sign a check, whether on the back or front, Teenage Me is there in the back of my head, pumping her fist and going FUCK YEAH!

  25. @Rev. Bob, @Lis Carey
    Because cheques have been phased out in most of Europe for twenty years or so, European banking apps are not set up to accept cheques. The physical trip to the bank is okay – it requires driving, but it’s not further than the nearest grocery store. But the 12 Euro handling fee really annoys me.

  26. Hardly ever write checks anymore. Had the same starter checkbook for (I think) 8 years now. The rare check that comes in get photographed by the camera and it’s done. I haven’t been into a bank more than once or twice over the past five years.

  27. rochrist on February 24, 2021 at 11:15 pm said:

    Hardly ever write checks anymore. Had the same starter checkbook for (I think) 8 years now. The rare check that comes in get photographed by the camera and it’s done. I haven’t been into a bank more than once or twice over the past five years.

    I don’t think I’ve been in a bank this century or on this continent.

  28. @Joshua: Their confusion is understandable; the financial instrument is, after all, called a cheque (much like how ‘cliques’ are not ‘clicks’, damnit).

  29. I hope if the motion to dismiss if granted the attorneys file a motion to recover damages and legal fees from jda. Though that may be hard since it failed in the anti-slapp ruling.

  30. 17 comments about checks that have absolutely nothing to do with the contents of the post.

    Squirrel!!! Sigh…

    So, is there or is there not a fund for helping with legal expenses?

  31. That’s just the order shortening time. Any day now the actual MSJ will be filed and we’ll get to enjoy some of the greatest hits from plaintiff’s deposition. Normally those are not public record, unless you attach large chunks of them to a motion as exhibits.

  32. Andrew Porter on February 25, 2021 at 9:27 am said:

    So, is there or is there not a fund for helping with legal expenses?

    There is no organized fundraising campaign at this time, but SFSFC is a registered 501c3 non-profit corporation, so you can donate money to it as you like, and such donations are tax-deductible. You can send a check (see, we brought it back around) to the corporation via its PO Box. I’m pretty sure you can also send money by PayPal, but I am not 100% certain of the address and wouldn’t want to steer you wrong. If you are interested, I can go confirm the address.

  33. I’d be happy to send some cash, so would appreciate to get information on how to do it through PayPal.

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