Judge SLAPPs Joe Francis, rules Playboy model's claims relevant to 'treatment of women'

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Judge SLAPPs Joe Francis, rules Playboy model's claims relevant to 'treatment of women'

Mon Feb 08, 2010 @ 10:31AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

180px-Joe_Francis "Girls Gone Wild" founder Joe Francis has been given a SLAPP by a Los Angeles Superior Court judge in a defamation case that stemmed from him allegedly punching a Playboy model.

Former Playmate of the Year Jayde Nicole was sued by the GGW mogul after she told TMZ that Francis "grabbed my hair and he punched me in the face ... he pushed me to the ground ... he kicked me in my stomach and my chest..."

Francis claimed Nicole had libeled and slandered him, as well as painted him in a false light. The case was somewhat ironic considering the number of times Francis has been on the receiving end of lawsuits by girls claiming exploitation.

Now judge Mark Mooney has granted Nicole's special motion to strike Francis' complaint (anti-SLAPP motions allow courts to dispose of cases on free speech grounds if they might squelch discussion of matters of public interest). Mooney ruled that Francis is "a public figure" whose treatment of young women (and the public discussion of that treatment) makes Nicole's allegations relevant to a matter of public interest. From the judge's ruling:

"The determination that some one is a public figure, does not, in and of itself, require the court to find that all statements concerning him are necessarily a matter of public interest. What compels the court to find the statements at issue in this litigation to be protected is the nature of those statements in reference to Mr. Francis. As the producer of the 'Girls Gone Wild' DVD series, Cross-complainant has been the subject of much public discussion concerning his treatment of women. It has been asserted that his 'Girls Gone Wild' series exploits and objectifies young women. As such, the statements attributed to Cross-defendant Nicole as to how she was treated by Francis on this particular occasion would have a connection to this issue."

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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