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Reeves Nelson Vs. Sports Illustrated: What Happens Next?

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Now that we've covered what could go wrong with Nelson for UCLA basketball regardless of the outcome, what's the next step forward for George Dohrmann?

There are multiple possibilities.

After consulting with several legal experts on this subject, there appears to be a lot of haze around what Dohrmann could do next. (Note: Do not treat this as real legal analysis. This column is only meant to be semi-informative. If you want real legal analysis, click here.)

There appear to be several options for Dohrmann, including perhaps filing a cross-complaint to try and intimidate Nelson and his side down. Nothing is really clear on this matter.

Another possibility is Anti-SLAPP.


One possible scenario for Dohrmann to try is using the Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Anti-SLAPP is a motion brought by a defendant against a lawsuit that they claim would silence free speech.

So, first the defense has to prove that the facts of the lawsuit stem from free speech and all that jazz. Dohrmann can just show that the facts of the defamation suit (i.e. what Dohrmann said in the article) stem from what Dohrmann said in the article. If they do that, the plaintiff will have to prove that they could win at trial.

Anti-SLAPP happens a lot in California.

California has a unique variant of anti-SLAPP legislation which has led a significant volume of SLAPP litigation in that state. A search for reported cases on SLAPP litigation in 2009 found 1,386 cases for the State of California alone. The rest of the states combined had about 341, of which Massachusetts accounted for 176, raising the question whether California's SLAPP statute is accomplishing its primary objective of reducing costly litigation [6] The U.S. state of California enacted Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16 in 1992, a statute intended to frustrate SLAPPs by providing a quick and inexpensive defense.[3] It provides for a special motion that a defendant can file at the outset of a lawsuit to strike a complaint when it arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition or free speech. The statute expressly applies to any writing or speech made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, but there is no requirement that the writing or speech be promulgated directly to the official body. It also applies to speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest and to any other petition or speech conduct about an issue of public interest.

For those of you who don't speak legalese, yeah, I have no idea what they're talking about either. But you'd have to figure if Dohrmann has proof that his statements are correct, he'd feel like he was in an advantageous position.

It's hard to say how good Dohrmann's chances are if he goes the Anti-SLAPP route, but it might possibly cause the least amount of damage.

Will the case go to federal or state court?

The plaintiff decides where to file initially. It's in federal court only if there's federal jurisdiction.

Since this is a state-law defamation claim, this can be in federal court only if Reeves is invoking a federal diversity junction, in this case suing a defendant(s) from different state(s) for more than $75K. If Reeves sues in state court, defendants can remove to federal court within 30 days if they have a jurisdictional basis for doing so (e.g., the aforementioned diversity jurisdiction).

If there's a federal law claim alleged by Nelson, that's enough for federal jurisdiction by itself, and the state-law defamation claim can be joined with that claim.

Whatever happens, UCLA can only hope the case is resolved as quickly as possible. There are still too many possibilities going forward to really figure out what could come out of this suit and how bad the Bruins might look the longer it drags out. The wheels are in motion though.