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.”