President Donald Trump got himself into another Twitter fight on Tuesday when he called porn star Stormy Daniels “horseface” in response to the news that Daniels’ defamation lawsuit against him was dismissed by a federal judge.
In that tweet, Trump gloated that he would now be able to “go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas.”
“Federal Judge throws out Stormy Danials lawsuit versus Trump. Trump is entitled to full legal fees.” @FoxNews Great, now I can go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas. She will confirm the letter she signed! She knows nothing about me, a total con!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018
Well, going to Texas is actually not what’s going on here at all, says Daniels’ lawyer Michael Avenatti. Avenatti responded to Trump’s “horseface” tweet with four reasons Trump has “shown himself to be a liar with a complete disregard for the truth.”
The fourth bullet point took aim at Trump’s suggestion that he can “go after” him and his client in the state of Texas.
“This is absurd; there is no legal basis that would allow him to do this,” Avenatti replied. “It is a complete fabrication and is the result of having a president that does not understand the law or how the legal system works.”
Below please find a statement just issued regarding Donald Trump's tweet of this morning. pic.twitter.com/lQM6TCN9fR
— Michael Avenatti (@MichaelAvenatti) October 16, 2018
Indeed, President Trump and his attorney Charles J. Harder moved to dismiss the defamation suit by citing the Texas anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) law. True to the name, anti-SLAPP law is meant to prevent frivolous lawsuits that have a chilling effect on public participation.
Federal Judge S. James Otero concluded that the anti-SLAPP law, also known as the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA), protected Trump’s speech against Daniels speech because it was “rhetorical hyperbole.” Consequently, the lawsuit was dismissed.
What Otero also said, however, is that Trump was entitled to seek compensation to cover legal fees he’s racked up due to the protracted dispute. This is what the president was gloating about when he said he can “go after Horseface and her 3rd rate lawyer in the Great State of Texas.”
The problem is, that’s not true.
Here’s what Otero said:
Having granted the Special Motion and denied Plaintiff leave to amend, the Court finally holds that Defendant is entitled to attorney’s fees. Texas law is unambiguous that “the TCPA requires an award of ‘reasonable attorney’s fees’ to the successful movant.” Sullivan v. Abraham, 488 S.W.3d 294, 299 (Tex. 2016). “A ‘reasonable’ attorney’s fee ‘is one that is not excessive or extreme, but rather moderate or fair.'” Id. (quoting Garcia v. Gomez, 319 S.W.3d 638, 642 (Tex.2010)).
For the foregoing reasons, the Court GRANTS Defendant’s Special Motion To Strike/Dismiss. Defendant is entitled to attorney’s fees under the Texas Citizen Participation Act. Should Defendants move for attorneys’ fees, the motion must be filed within fourteen (14) days from the date of this order.
Correct translation: This Texas statute entitles you to pursue this money.
Otero also said that he applied the Texas anti-SLAPP statute in this case because “a state court in New York,” where Daniels first brought the diversity action, “would apply the TCPA to this.”
Incorrect takeaway: Time to go after my tormentors in Texas.
[Image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images]