Constitutional Law: The Gober Group Wins Dismissal and Fee Award in High-Profile Defamation Suit Brought by Father of Former Irving, TX Student Known as “Clock Boy”Sunday, February 5, 2017
In a decisive victory for free speech and freedom of the press, a legal team led by Chris Gober and Ross Fischer of The Gober Group and Kurt Schlichter of Schlichter & Shonack has won a dismissal and fee award in a high-profile defamation suit filed by the father of a Muslim teenager who was arrested and suspended in 2015 for bringing a clock, which many have said looked like a bomb, to school.
The incident put the Irving, Texas student, who came to be known in the media as “Clock Boy,” at the center of a national debate about terrorism and racial profiling and set off a firestorm of social media support for the teen who received invitations to visit Facebook, MIT, NASA, and even then-President Obama at the White House. In the fall of 2015, lawyers for Mohamed Mohamed, the student’s father, sent two demand letters—one to the City of Irving, and another to the Irving Independent School District—asking for a total of $15 million for alleged civil rights violations related to the arrest. The incident was widely discussed in the press, and well-known political commentator Ben Shapiro discussed the controversy with Megyn Kelly during a segment on The Kelly File. Nearly a year later, the father filed a defamation lawsuit against various media defendants who reported on and commented on the controversy, including Shapiro.
Representing Mr. Shapiro, The Gober Group and Schlichter & Schonack moved to dismiss the suit using the Texas Citizens Participation Act, widely known as the “anti-SLAPP” statute, a Texas law that protects Texans from retaliatory lawsuits that aim to punish them for exercising their First Amendment rights. During a district court hearing on January 30, Gober established that Shapiro’s statements were covered by the anti-SLAPP statute and successfully argued that the claims should be dismissed because the statements were not defamatory per se, and were opinion or fair, true, and impartial statements involving a matter of public concern. Notably, the court also ordered the Mohameds to pay Shapiro’s attorneys’ fees.
“This is an excellent day for free speech. Using law as warfare is perhaps the most disgusting tactic of politically correct activists across the country, and we couldn’t be more excited to stand up against such frivolous use of our court system,” said Shapiro. “My initial comments suggested that false charges of Islamophobia only muddy the waters when it comes to policing actual dangerous activity, and I’m proud to fight back against such charges.”
“I could not be prouder than to have had the opportunity, along with Kurt and Ross, to help Ben protect every American’s right to speak out on important issues,” Gober said. “Ben never once wavered, never even considered giving in, and we are grateful that the Court has unequivocally reaffirmed his and every American’s right to speak freely.”
About The Gober Group
The Gober Group is a national law firm that represents a diverse group of clients seeking to effectively engage in the political and public policy arenas at the federal, state, and local levels of government. The firm’s client roster spans coast to coast and includes mid-sized to Fortune 100 companies, trade associations and other tax-exempt organizations, candidates and elected officials, lobbyists and political consultants, and high net-worth individuals and activists.
Whether it’s achieving a strategic objective, navigating a “bet the company” issue, or competing at the ballot box, clients put their trust in The Gober Group when their reputations are on the line. In other words, The Gober Group helps clients win when it matters most.
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