WASHINGTON (JTA) — A federal appeals court has ruled that Jewish Democrats may countersue casino magnate Sheldon Adelson now that lower courts have dismissed his libel lawsuit against them.
Adelson had sued the National Jewish Democratic Council in 2012 over an online petition alleging the major Republican donor allowed prostitution at his casino in Macau. The petition included a hyperlink to an Associated Press article carrying allegations against Adelson. Much of the legal argument was over whether attaching a hyperlink is a clear enough signal that the defendants were citing available information.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York said Adelson failed to show that his targets knew their claim against him was false. The ruling affirmed a decision by a lower court to dismiss Adelson’s lawsuit.
The hyperlink was embedded in an online petition urging Republicans not to take money from Adelson, who in addition to being a major giver to the Republican Party also funds Jewish, pro-Israel and medical philanthropies.
The linked AP article reported on a lawsuit by a former employee of Adelson alleging that the employee was terminated for, among other reasons, refusing to allow prostitutes to ply their trade at the casino. Adelson’s Sands Corp. has since reportedly settled with the employee, Steve Jacobs, with a $75 million payout.
The appeals court ruling allows the NJDC to countersue under Nevada’s famously tough statute meant to prevent frivolous libel lawsuits. Such anti-SLAPP statutes (short for “strategic lawsuit against public participation”), which vary state to state, allow targets of lawsuits to countersue should a court dismiss a libel lawsuit.
In Nevada, the targets may sue the original plaintiff not only for legal costs but punitive damages.
The targets of Adelson’s original lawsuit, the NJDC and its former chairman, Marc Stanley, and president, David Harris, have not yet decided whether to exercise their right to countersue, Stanley said in an email to JTA.
An email to Adelson’s spokesman did not elicit a response.