March 5, 2015

NIAC Response to Wilkins Ruling

Some confusion has arisen as to the nature of the opinion filed by Judge Wilkins on February 10, 2015 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. In what was a dispute over whether the District Court had abused its discretion in shifting some of the costs of discovery from defendant Hassan Daioleslam to NIAC, a few have reasserted false claims about NIAC by excising certain language from the court’s opinion (regarding “altered” Outlook calendar entries) and assigning an intent to NIAC that the court itself ultimately rejects.

Despite the disputes during the discovery process, any claim that NIAC acted in bad-faith is belied by the considered judgment of Judge Bates, who awarded the cost-shifting fees to Mr. Daioleslam in the first instance. Judge Bates dealt with the issue squarely, writing: “The Court is ultimately persuaded that plaintiffs’ many discovery failures are…a product of lack of resources and carelessness more than bad faith.”

Judge Bates’ view was affirmed in Judge Wilkins’ opinion as well, when the Court of Appeals noted that “[t]he court did not find that NIAC had inappropriately altered Outlook calendar entries” – a conclusion that some have elided so as to pin on NIAC a bad-faith intent that it never shared.

And while NIAC remains disappointed that Judge Wilkins’ opinion did not address our primary argument — that Judge Bates had overlooked his own grounds rules for shifting the forensic-imaging costs, doing so even though he (a) had determined that there was no evidence that NIAC had altered any of the disputed Outlook calendar entries and (b) had concluded that the entries Mr. Daioleslam discovered through forensic imaging were not material to his summary judgment motion – NIAC is comforted by the fact that the concerted effort of Mr. Daioleslam and others to “destroy NIAC” failed remarkably. Even after spending several million dollars in what Judge Bates found to be “little…relevant to the actual disposition of the case,” Mr. Daioleslam could not substantiate a single one of his claims against NIAC.

Moreover, NIAC’s leadership position in the Iranian-American community and its burgeoning influence in the Washington, D.C. policy community remains the strongest evidence yet as to the utter failure of some to sideline the voices of Iranian Americans.

What is also key to remember is that this case was a defamation suit that NIAC brought against Mr. Daioleslam. In the defamation suit, NIAC was tasked with proving not just that Mr. Daioleslam’s claims were untrue, but also that they were made with “actual malice” – a legal standard by which NIAC must prove that Mr. Daioleslam either knew that his claims were false or “entertained serious doubts as to [their] truth” but made the claims regardless. This is (and was) a difficult burden to bear, which is why successful defamation suits are rare in U.S. courts.

Mr. Daioleslam did not seek summary judgment on the basis that his claims were true, which would have been a complete defense to the suit. Instead, Mr. Daioleslam argued that even if his claims are untrue, he did not make them with the malice required for him to be found liable. This is a critical distinction – insofar as some have seized on certain language in court opinions, removed that language from the legal context in which it is situated, and repeated Mr. Daioleslam’s claims – only this time with the pretense that the D.C. District Court affirmed them as well.

The D.C. District Court has always been clear: “Nothing in [its] opinion should be construed as a finding that defendant’s articles were true. Defendant did not move for summary judgment on that ground, and it has not been addressed here.” In other words, the Court would lament any insinuation that its opinion confirms the views of Mr. Daioleslam – a fact that some should take into consideration when they trespass the clear judgment of the court.

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