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Orian et al. v. FIDH et al.

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Synopsis

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) along with lawyers at Bostwick & Jassy LLP are representing the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) in a lawsuit brought to chill FIDH’s public statements on an issue of public interest. California-based Global Horizons, Inc. and its president, Mordechai Orian, sued FIDH and others for libel and tortious interference with business relations for statements made about their treatment of Chinese migrant workers that appeared in a 2003 report.  Orian and Global Horizons are seeking at least $110 million in damages, claiming that material in FIDH’s report was defamatory and was “republished” last year.

Status

On October 17, 2011, lawyers from CCR and Bostwick & Jassy LLP filed motions to strike and dismiss the lawsuit against FIDH, and on October 31, Plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the case without prejudice. Despite Plaintiffs' dismissal, on December 13, 2011, the court found that FIDH would have prevailed on its anti-SLAPP motion. Consequently, the court ordered that FIDH could submit a motion for attorneys' fees and costs, which are awarded to prevailing defendants under the California anti-SLAPP statute. On March 22, 2012, the Court granted Defendants’ Motions for attorneys’ fees and costs.

Description

In August 2011, Global Horizons and its president, Mordechai Orian filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in the Central District of California against FIDH.  Orian is suing FIDH for libel and tortious interference with business relations regarding the 2003 report, “Migrant Workers in Israel: A Contemporary Form of Slavery”. This report issued by FIDH stated that Orian and the company he directed had failed to pay Chinese migrant workers and, instead, had them beaten and deported. Orian is currently facing charges in Hawaii for forced labor of approximately 400 Thai nationals. Claiming that material in the 2003 report was defamatory, Orian and Global Horizons are seeking at least $110 million in damages.
 
FIDH filed a special motion to strike the lawsuit on October 17, 2011. The motion requires parties who bring a lawsuit to demonstrate that it is not a Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation—SLAPP—suit targeting constitutionally-protected free speech. SLAPPs are civil complaints or counterclaims in which the alleged injury was the result of petitioning or free speech activities protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and by the California Constitution. While many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legal merit, they can effectively achieve their principal purpose: to chill public debate on specific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legal resources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence others. California has an anti-SLAPP statute to deter such lawsuits.  Additionally, FIDH has moved to dismiss the case for lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient service, and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
 
 
Other Defendants named in Orian et al. v. FIDH et al. include the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Kav LaOved, an Israeli human rights organization.

Timeline

August 22, 2011: Mordechai Orian and Global Horizons Inc. filed a lawsuit against the Defendants in the U.S. District Court in the Central District of California.
 
September 28, 2011: Defendant Kav LaOved filed a motion to strike Plaintiffs’ complaint or, in the alternative, to dismiss Plaintiffs’ Complaint.
 
October 17, 2011: Defendant FIDH filed an Anti-SLAPP motion to strike Plaintiffs’ complaint, as well as a motion to dismiss Plaintiffs’ complaint.
 
October 31, 2011: Defendant Kav LaOved filed a reply in support of the special motion to strike.
 
October 31, 2011: Plaintiffs filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of the case without prejudice.
 
November 2, 2011: Defendant Kav LaOved filed a response to Plaintiffs' voluntary dismissal of the case.
 
December 13, 2011: Despite Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal after FIDH filed its anti-SLAPP motion the court found that FIDH would have prevailed on the motion, and ordered that FIDH and other defendants could submit a motion for attorneys' fees and costs, which are awarded to prevailing defendants under the anti-SLAPP statute in California.
 
March 22, 2012: The Court granted Defendants’ Motions for attorneys’ fees and costs.