Thursday, October 20, 2005
Court of Appeal Reinstates Hilary Clinton’s Bid to Be Dismissed From Judicial Watch Suit Over Fundraiser
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A Los Angeles Superior Court judge must reconsider his denial of an anti-SLAPP motion brought by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and her campaign committee in a suit charging her and others with trying to subvert campaign finance laws, the Court of Appeal for this district has ruled.
Justice Fred Woods, writing for Div. Seven, said Judge Aurelio Munoz erred when he ruled that the motion was untimely because it was set for hearing more than 30 days after it was filed.
The statutory 30-day limit is triggered by the service of the motion, not the filing, Woods explained, adding that the law permits a later hearing if “docket conditions” require or if the judge exercises his or her discretion to extend the time.
On remand, the trial judge should determine whether the original hearing date was timely and if not, whether a late hearing should be permitted anyway, Woods said.
The plaintiff, Peter F. Paul, a businessman and former associate of comic book illustrator Stan Lee, claims that he contributed nearly $2 million to Clinton’s successful 2000 campaign in New York, but that the contributions were never reported. He alleges that he was induced to make the donations by promises of a future business relationship with former President Bill Clinton, which never materialized.
The former president was originally named as a defendant in the case, but was dismissed on demurrer.
Paul alleged in his complaint that he feared indictment on election-law charges as a result of the allegedly unreported contributions.
The suit, in which Paul has been represented by Sterling E. Norris of Judicial Watch, a conservative legal organization that has filed numerous suits against the Clintons and their associates, has had an interesting procedural history.
It was originally assigned to Judge Ernest Hiroshige, but Paul’s attorneys filed an affidavit of prejudice under Code of Civil Procedure Sec. 170.6. Hiroshige is an appointee of Jerry Brown and a longtime member of the Japanese-American Democratic Club.
The case was reassigned to Judge David Workman, who was a member of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee for six years prior to his election to the bench in 1980. But Workman was “papered” by attorneys for defendant David Rosen, a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Rosen’s anti-SLAPP motion was granted by Munoz, a ruling upheld Tuesday by the appellate panel.
The case then went to Munoz, a Democrat and Brown appointee, who originally dismissed it under the fugitive disentitlement doctrine because Paul was fighting extradition from Brazil on charges of manipulating the price of Stan Lee Media Inc. stock.
Paul was later extradited and refiled the suit. He pled guilty to the securities charge in March.
Copyright 2005, Metropolitan News Company