Worldcon 76’s financial report to the DisCon III business meeting agenda shows that the 2018 Worldcon incurred another $91,565.00 of legal fees this past year defending the suit brought by author Jon Del Arroz. And the cumulative cost? “Counsel has recommended we not go into deep money talk about the case, but I can say we spent well over $100K,” says Chair Kevin Roche.
Worldcon 76 and Del Arroz announced in June 2021 they had settled the suit shortly before it was scheduled to go to trial. Del Arroz had sued San Francisco Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon 76) for banning him from the 2018 convention held in San Jose, and for statements made in the public announcement of that decision. An earlier court decision had disposed of all grounds for the suit except one. “At the end, the only claim which would have gone forward to trial was the ‘defamation as racist’ claim,” said Roche. “The other claims had already been tossed in our favor (including the defamation as ‘bully’ claim; the judge found we had adequate evidence to support that statement).”
Roche adds, “Court costs are not normally recoverable in such a case. The amount for which we settled was less than half the cost of one day at trial. Note: by cost of one day at trial I’m referring to SFSFC’s costs, not JDAs. I don’t know what his lawyer’s rates were.”
Del Arroz’ attorney, Peter Sean Bradley, told File 770 after the case settled that he had provided his services pro bono. “I did not charge Mr. Del Arroz anything for my services. There was a contingency fee retainer agreement but I took the case with no expectation of being paid on this case since it was not likely that the defendant had any assets (other than its trademark.) When we ascertained that defendant had not acquired insurance with the usual coverage for defamation, those expectations were confirmed.”
The settlement called for Worldcon 76 to pay JDA $4,000 in damages, which they paid before the settlement was announced, and to issue an apology, which was published simultaneously with the announcement.
Roche concludes: “As everyone has noted, the big lesson: If you are banning someone for CoC violations and must state so publicly, RESIST the urge to detail the violations.”
Following the settlement between San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (Worldcon 76) and Jon Del Arroz of his lawsuit against the 2018 Worldcon, Del Arroz’ attorney, Peter Sean Bradley, has announced that he provided his services pro bono.
He filled in more details in this statement to File 770:
I did not charge Mr. Del Arroz anything for my services. There was a contingency fee retainer agreement but I took the case with no expectation of being paid on this case since it was not likely that the defendant had any assets (other than its trademark.) When we ascertained that defendant had not acquired insurance with the usual coverage for defamation, those expectations were confirmed.
Bradley further explained:
The out-of-pocket costs – what are called “costs” by the courts, as opposed to attorney’s fees – include things like filing fees, deposition court reporter transcript fees, in the main. I can’t think of any other costs in this case. Those costs were borne by the client. The $4,000 settlement payment covered these costs.
Bradley also mentioned another of his recent pro bono cases:
Fortunately, as a sole practitioner with approximately 40 years of experience in business litigation and plaintiff’s civil rights litigation, I have the flexibility to take cases that interest me and/or where I think I can help people.
For example, last year I represented an African-American woman who had been fired from her job with the County of Fresno before the Civil Service Commission on a pro bono basis where the case had indicia of racial discrimination. I was successful in getter her job back for her. My compensation was being able to help a very nice person while fighting racial discrimination during the George Floyd riots.
It may be surprising to some people who think of lawyers in pejorative terms, but the law is a helping profession, particularly for those of us who represent individuals rather than corporations.
And Bradley included this note about his practice in response to some belittling comments about it on this blog:
This may also come as a shock to your readership but my civil rights practice, including employment discrimination and termination, involves the representation of the disabled, women, racial/ethnic minorities, people on account of sexual orientation/identity, and people who have had their constitutional or civil rights violated. I was amused while I was reading File 770 commenters’ views about my legal ability to receive the Court of Appeal Opinion affirming a $2.6 million jury verdict on behalf of a client in a disability/defamation case. (O’Brien v. CDCR.) It seems that the Court of Appeals had a different evaluation of my legal ability than your readers, and, again, I took satisfaction in helping another very nice person while enjoying the prospects of a substantial fee.
The O’Brien Appeals court decision is online here.