Defamation Lawsuit Against Blogger Dismissed on Jurisdictional Grounds–Fahmy v. Hogge

By Eric Goldman

Fahmy v. Hogge, 2008 WL 4614322 (C.D. Cal. Oct. 14, 2008). The Justia page.

This lawsuit involves the blog (Hog on Ice). The blog’s topical coverage includes “Guns, God, Food, Beer, Tools, Politics, and Whining,” and the masthead somewhat incongruously displays both the Christian fish and an Israeli flag. There wasn’t much that I found interesting at this blog. Some might view it as a paradigmatic example of blogger self-absorption. The blogger self-describes himself as a humorist, so maybe I just missed the punchlines.

The litigants are former classmates from the University of Miami School of Law (class of 1998). They are both licensed Florida lawyers (Fahmy appears to be inactive). The case suggests that the litigants also were romantically involved, although most people know better than to date lawyers, and everyone knows that two-lawyer couples can be BIG TROUBLE.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, it looks like their breakup didn’t go very well. The blogger allegedly said some not-nice-if-untrue things about the plaintiff on his blog, including “labeling her as a mentally ill alcoholic prostitute,” calling her a deadbeat and questioning her work ethic. Most people wouldn’t take kindly to these characterizations, but describing a lawyer this way is practically guaranteed to spark a lawsuit…

…which is exactly what happened here. The plaintiff sued the Florida blogger in her home court of California. The blogger moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court initially denied the motion, but in this ruling, reconsiders the motion and grants it. The blogger wasn’t subject to general jurisdiction in California, but the plaintiff tries to reach out using the purposeful availment/Calder v. Jones “effects test.” This test works when the defendant expressly aims tortious behavior towards the jurisdiction. Here, the defendant responded that he didn’t know his ex was living in California, and therefore he didn’t aim his remarks at California. The plaintiff introduced some evidence that the blogger knew she was in California, but the court disregards the evidence because it was not sufficiently authenticated. Case dismissed. The blogger’s apparent celebratory message suggests that maybe (through divine intervention or otherwise) the parties will find an extra-judicial reconciliation. If that doesn’t happen, based on the tenor of lawsuit, I’d be surprised if the case wasn’t refiled in Florida.

I’ve mentioned before that typically no one looks good in defamation lawsuits like this. This case is no exception, especially given that both lawyers are representing themselves pro se, thus inviting the observation that “a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.” For example, the plaintiff’s case is tossed because she failed to provide insufficient admissible evidence (such as an affidavit) for her factual allegations. Meanwhile, the court spanks the defendant for making filings that exceeded the permitted length, saying that “[a]lthough Defendant is not a member of the California Bar and claims to be “rusty,” the Court finds that ignorance is no excuse in this case.” Worse, in response to the defendant’s factual rebuttals, the court said that it “is not convinced of Defendant’s credibility.” Ugh.

UPDATE: CMLP has posted a blog post and a case page on this lawsuit.