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Hogan Lovells Pro Bono Team Achieves Victory for Client in First Amendment Case

16 December 2013

Los Angeles, CA, 16 December 2013 – Today, a Hogan Lovells pro bono team secured a significant victory for client, Richard Silverstein, a well-respected blogger who writes about the Middle East. The California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District issued a unanimous decision siding with Silverstein, concluding that the plaintiff Rachel Neuwirth failed to prove her case.

In his blog, Silverstein referred to Neuwirth as a, “Kahanist Swine.” Neuwirth filed a defamation action, claiming that by using this term, Silverstein called her a terrorist. After a multi-day trial at which the Hogan Lovells team presented testimony from leading professors on Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the pro bono team prevailed. Neuwirth appealed this decision and the Court of Appeal confirmed the lower court’s ruling.

“This opinion re-affirms what’s most important:  we, as a country, have decided to structure our laws to encourage robust debate on matters of paramount public concern,” said Hogan Lovells Partner Dean Hansell, who argued the case.  “The Court was 100% correct in holding that Neuwirth had failed to prove “actual malice” by any evidence.”

In a rare California defamation trial, the Hogan Lovells team maintained that the protections of Times v. Sullivan exist so that the public debate can be robust and unfettered. The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that Neuwirth had failed to satisfy the high burden of proof necessary to trump those protections. The Court of Appeal understood that, having injected herself into the fiery debate of middle eastern politics (particularly in the blogosphere), Neuwirth could not claim to be a defamation victim when a political opponent labels her an extremist.

The multi-office Hogan Lovells team advising Silverstein was led by Los Angeles Litigation Partner Dean Hansell and included Los Angles associate Rachel Patta, and New York associates Nathaniel Boyer and Sarah Gregory.

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