Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Posts tagged ‘Eastern District Court of Virginia’

Federici v Pignotti et al: What the Judge Actually Said

It has come to my attention that the misinformation about this case is being repeated.

To set the record straight, click here for a link to the entire dismissal document which people can read to get the full context for this case, to read exactly what the judge, the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee stated in his ruling in the March 4, 2011 dismissal hearing when he dismissed Dr. Ronald Federici’s case against multiple defendants. This is a prime example of why it has been said that the transcriber has the most important job in the courtroom, so that there is an objective record of what occurred that cannot be distorted later. Contrary to assertions by Dr. Federici that he was “designated an international public figure”, the transcript shows there was no such declaration. The transcript (quoted below) clearly shows that judge declined to rule on whether Dr. Federici was a public figure because he dismissed the case on other grounds (jurisdiction and for Pignotti & Mercer, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted – our words did not quality as defamation and Federici failed to demonstrate any conspiracy or tortious interference). He did not “declare” Federici a public figure, nor did he declare any of his colleagues as public figures, as they were completely irrelevant to this case. As the quotations I will reproduce below explicitly demonstrate, the judge was very clear that my comments, contrary to Federici’s repeated insistent assertions, did not constitute defamation. Here are some relevant quotes from the judge’s ruling, where he pointed out multiple deficiencies in Federici’s complaint:

Let me say at the outset that the complaint suffers from several deficiencies. The first is group pleading, and we really can’t tell what allegations are made against each individual defendant. And that is a problem that the whole complaint suffers from. And because of that, it is really not clear what the plaintiff asserts each defendant did and when and what false statements were made that are libelous, what was the statement, what was the date of it.

and

With respect to conspiracy, there’s not enough here in terms of facts to demonstrate a conspiracy. And again, the fact that the plaintiff here is engaged in group pleading makes it impossible to tell what agreement plaintiff claims was entered into by which defendants at what time to do what against Dr. Federici.

The fact that they all have criticized Dr. Federici does not mean they’ve entered into an agreement sufficient to support a claim for conspiracy.

and here’s why he granted the motion of Pignotti and Mercer to dismiss for failure to state a claim:

 The defamation claim, there’s a motion to dismiss filed by Pignotti and Mercer that does not state a claim for defamation or tortious interference with contract rights or business expectancy.

I’m going to grant that motion for several reasons. First of all, as it relates to the statements themselves, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts connecting Mercer with any actionable statements.

And as it relates to Pignotti, I do not think that plaintiff has set forth sufficient facts to demonstrate a claim that would meet the requirements of libel underVirginia law and the Chapin versus Knight-Ridder case.

The words specifically claimed are not set forth. They’re not set forth with any specificity. The dates are not set forth. They’re insufficient to state a claim. And looking at them as a matter of substance, some of them — Exhibit H, appears to be Dr. Pignotti responding what she believes to be actions taken by Dr. Federici on her website. These matters would not be –they would be opinion. They would not be sufficient to state a claim for libel.

And here is where he declined to rule on the public figure issue (contrary to what Federici has repeatedly asserted, he was not “declared” a public figure by Judge Lee, nor were any of his colleagues, who are irrelevant to this case although Judge Lee does point out that the possibility exists beause he advertises on the internet and TV – he made no evaluation about whether or not he was a valid expert since that would not be relevant and the case was dismissed on other grounds):

And I think without making a judgment now that plaintiff’s counsel would have to agree that there’s a question here to be decided at some point, maybe not today, about whether or not — what standard would apply to plead a libel or slander against Dr. Federici and whether or not he’s a public figure or limited public figure given that he advertises on the Internet and on television and all these others.

But I don’t have to decide that now. But if that issue were to come up, it does appear that there would be some challenge presented to Dr. Federici to credibly assert he’s not a public figure or at least a limited public figure.

I’m going to grant the motion to dismiss as it relates to tortious interference with contract rights and expectancy because he’s not proffered sufficient facts to demonstrate that Mercer or Pignotti intentionally interfered with any contracts.

The fact that he is a practicing psychologist does not in and of itself give notice to anyone else that he has contracts with particular clients or that he communicated with those particular clients. And the complaint as set forth alleges that two — I believe it was two potential clients canceled their appointments because of things that they read on the internet, not necessarily matters that were set forth by Dr. Pignotti or Dr. Mercer.

And finally, with respect to conspiracy to injure in trade business reputation under 18.2499, this complaint does not come close to meeting the requirements of Ashcroft versus Iqbal in terms of setting forth facts that plead conspiracy in more than just conclusory terms. So for those reasons, the motion to dismiss will be granted for the reasons just stated.

So there you have it. These are the reasons the case was dismissed, as stated in the public record. Not all the twisting and shouting and attempts to resurrect ancient history by Dr. Federici, Ms. Heather Forbes and their supporters is going to change that. Not all the ranting about irrelevant voting machine cases and a 35+ year ago involvement I had in Scientology that I have long since repudiated and misportrayals of Jean Mercer’s blogging (she was not “fired” by Psychology Today – she quit after they forbade her to write about Federici because they failed to show up in court when he sued them and he won by default, although he lost against Mercer, who did show up and successfully defended herself and continues to blog about him), are going to obfuscate this public record of what transpired. That being said, Psychology Today never hired Jean Mercer for pay in the first place, hence the term “fired” is completely moot.

I have not defamed Dr. Federici. I have exercised my Constitutional right to express my criticisms and sincerely held concerns about his interventions as described in his self-published book and media appearances. And no, challenging authoritarian, non-empirically supported practices and refusing to fall into lock step with self-proclaimed “experts” who make claims in self-published books and promote themselves via testimonials is not “hate” speech. It is done out of a caring and concern for mental health clients who licensed mental health professionals are there to serve. Expression of such opinions does not constitute defamation, nor does it constitute interference with business, nor does the fact that the defendants agree with one another about this, constitute conspiracy. Instead of responding to the substance of my concerns, he continues to choose to attempt to resurrect irrelevant ancient history and engage in personal attacks. People can judge for themselves what that may indicate. Where is the evidence that prone restraints and the intervention he promotes is safe and effective? When and where specifically did he train in the administration of the restraint procedure he recommends? More authority-based assertions that his holds are completely safe just do not cut it, in my opinion, especially after so much of the published literature I have consulted on the dangers of prone restraint, even when administered correctly. Even the literature I consulted that is in favor of prone restraints, outlines very strict precautions that must be in place and checks and balances, monitoring, record keeping and safety equipment (e.g. resuscitation) that would not be difficult, if not impossible to have in a private home. At best, prone restraint is a highly controversial procedure that I have every right to express my opinions on. These are very real issues and substantive response does not appear to be forthcoming. Instead the ad hominem (personal) attacks on critics continue.

I would be more than happy to put this matter to rest and never mention it again, but since the anonymous WordPress bloggers and others are continuing to post and repost misportrayals of what occurred, I will defend myself, as I have the right to, by posting public records. Bottom line: Keep posting misportrayals of what occurred and I will keep reposting links to and quotes from the actual public records from this and possibly other cases.

Federici v Pignotti et al: Officially Terminated for All Defendants Including John Does

As I have previously noted, on March 4, 2011 the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee of Eastern District Court of Virginia, aka the Rocket Docket, granted the Motions to Dismiss filed for all named defendants in Federici v Pignotti et al: Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Linda Rosa, Larry Sarner and Advocates for Children in Therapy.  The official order was issued on March 28 and 30 days later, the appeal period expired, thus concluding the case for all named defendants.

However, there was one more loose end to tie up: the John Does 1-10. These were the anonymous defendants Federici believed existed. Of course, since they were not named, they were not served and hence, could not file Motions to Dismiss. Thus, on May 11, 2011 the judge issued an order to Plaintiff Ronald Federici to “show cause as to why this civil action as to John Does 1-10 should not be dismissed” and was ordered to respond within 20 days.

20 days later, Domingo Rivera, on behalf of Ronald Federici filed a Motion to Dismiss for the John Does, without prejudice.  The Memorandum stated:

Despite multiple attempts, counsel has been unable to reach Plaintiff regarding the Court’s May 11, 2011 Order. Additionally, due to certain events not directly related to this litigation, counsel does not believe that he can ethically continue representing Plaintiff in any matter, including the instant case. Granting Federici’s Motion to Dismiss Without Prejudice will allow Federici to seek alternate representation so that he may later continue to prosecute this matter against the remaining defendants.

Full document can be viewed here:

Memo MTD John Does

What does this mean and why was he unable to be reached? Since the memo gives no reason and events in question “not directly related” were not specified, your guess is as good as mine and anything further I could offer would be only speculation, so I won’t.

What is factually certain is that on June 1, 2011, the judge granted the Motion to Dismiss for the John Does and the case is now officially concluded and terminated for all concerned. The fact it was dismissed without prejudice with regard to the John Does means that he will have the opportunity to refile against the “remaining defendants” meaning the John Does if he should decide to seek “alternate representation” and do so.

My understanding of this is that since the case was dismissed for the named defendants on jurisdiction, any John Does identified would have to be Virginians or individuals who had ties to Virginia which the named defendants did not.

The Dismissal Order for the named defendants on the grounds of jurisdiction for all named defendants and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted for Pignotti and Mercer can be viewed here.

Case closed June 1, 2011.

PS: Although geographically very close (Eastern District VA is literally across the river from DC), this wouldn’t have helped me with the VA case, but here is some good news on the anti-SLAPP legislation front. Washington DC has just passed some quite extensive anti-SLAPP legislation.

The new D.C. statute falls on the more protective end of the spectrum of anti-SLAPP laws.  It permits a special motion to strike in lawsuits stemming from acts “in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest,” which includes both petitioning the government and addressing issues of public interest in a public forum.  It also provides a special motion to quash to those whose personal identifying information is being sought via subpoena, should that information be sought in a matter arising from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest.

What we ultimately need to protect everyone in all states is legislation like this at the Federal level. This, however, is a big step forward.

Federici v Pignotti et al: Order Granting Motion to Dismiss

It is now official. For the lawsuit of Ronald S. Federici v Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Advocates for Children in Therapy, Larry Sarner and Linda Rosa, the order by the Honorable Gerald Bruce Lee in the Eastern District Court of Alexandria, VA (aka the rocket docket), granting all of the defendants’ motions to dismiss has been published and granted. Click on the following link, to read the document (this order has been updated and amended March 28 to correct an error (the motion was granted for failure to state a claim for Pignotti and Mercer (not Miller as the previous version stated):

Order Granting Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.pdf (03-28-2011)

The Dismissal was granted for me on the grounds of both Jurisdiction and Failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted:

ORDERED that Defendants Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Larry Sarner, Advocates for Children in Therapy, and Linda Rosa’s Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) is GRANTED.

It is further
ORDERED that Pignotti and Mercer’s Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim Upon Which Relief Can be Granted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) is GRANTED.

So it is now official. For Jean Mercer and Monica Pignotti, the case was dismissed on both the grounds of jurisdiction and Ronald Federici’s failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The reason not all defendants had it dismissed on failure to state a claim was that the defendants had different lawyers from different law firms and although I believe both did an excellent, competent job, some of the defendants did not include asking for dismissal for failure to state a claim in their pleadings. I mention this so people reading this will understand that this should in no way be interpreted as any kind of denial for the other defendants. They just didn’t plead it that way in the first place as we did. I note this because this has already been mischaracterized by certain anonymous posters as a “split decision” when it was nothing of the sort. There was no decision on failure to state a claim for the other defendants because they didn’t plead it in the first place. Therefore it was neither granted nor denied for those defendants.

This finding of failure to state a claim is also interesting, since in Dr. Federici’s recent “response” to his critics, he stated that my blogs were filled with lies, fabrications and malicious content. I have repeatedly asked him to identify specifics, but the only place he has even attempted to do so is in his now-dismissed complaint to the courts. I would think that the statements he named would be his very best efforts to identify statements I made that he thinks fell into that category. However, according to the findings stated in the dismissal hearing of March 4, 2011, he failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted and the judge stated that the statements attributed to me did not fall into a category that would constitute defamation and pointed specifically to Exhibit H, stating that these were opinions, hence not actionable (that would be the case regardless of whether or not Federici is a public figure, a separate issue that the judge elected not to formally rule on although he did state his opinion — the case was already dismissed on other grounds so the public figure issue at least for this particular case would be moot).

Bottom line is that it is my understanding that Federici still has not named any specific statements from my blogs that would qualify as anything even remotely constituting lies, fabrications or malice. He asserts this vague allegation in his response to his critics in the section where he attacks me specifically, but does not back it up with any specific quotes that can be attributed to me.

Again, I remind people that I am only responsible for the Exhibits in the complaint that have my name on them. I am not responsible for any of the other material, even though Federici attempted to make us all responsible for everything in the complaint as a “conspiracy” which was one of the charges. That too, was rejected by the court because he failed to say who, specifically, said what.

It is also interesting to note that some of Federici’s and/or his legal counsel’s responses to the court seemed to me to imply that people working together to write planned criticism constituted a conspiracy. I am not saying this is the case with these particular defendants, but if it were the case that planned criticism were actionable, many peer reviewed journal critiques by multiple authors would be in danger of being sued.

Of course, this is not the case. I am not a lawyer, but the legal definition of conspiracy is really not difficult for the average layperson to grasp. In order to be a conspiracy, the individuals had to have come together to commit an illegal act or an act that is legally actionable in a civil court. For example, if a group of people conspired to deliberately lie about someone, that would qualify. If people conspired to lie that I was fired from FSU or did sexual favors for people for endorsements, for example, that would be actionable because that is clearly a malicious lie that has no basis in fact. However, if people come together to conduct a critical analysis of claims being made by a mental health professional and that analysis constitutes the sincerely held position of the critics that the person is recommending parents practice potentially harmful procedures on children such as prone restraint, then the conspiracy charge would fail.

The bottom line is that people have the freedom to come together to protest and criticize and that would not qualify as conspiracy as long as they refrain from illegal acts and do not deliberately lie. Were that not the case, where would the civil rights movement be today? People come together to criticize and protest all kinds of things and that is perfectly legal. It only stops being legal when people come together to deliberately lie about someone or commit illegal acts against someone.

It is interesting to note that since the dismissal of this case, the number of false, obscene and I believe malicious internet smear postings about me have greatly increased. Not pointing the finger at anyone in particular — just making a note of this most interesting correlation which appears to be a naturally occurring form of the A-B-A design.

The dismissal hearing transcript of March 4, 2011 will become public record following the 90-day waiting period, on June 23, 2011. I would like to add the court reporter, Renecia Wilson, to my list of people I have acknowledged and thanked for their work on this case. In many ways, as the court reporter who provided an objective, verbatim transcript of what occurred at that meeting, she was the most important person in that courtroom because without that, much of the important detail of what transpired that day would have been lost forever and subject to endless misinterpretations to suit various agendas. It was especially important for me to have such a transcript, since I was unable to be present in the courtroom, but even if I were, no human being is capable of having a 100% accurate memory of what transpired and the verbatim transcript is already showing differences between what some people who were there have reported and what transpired. Having such a record is priceless.

Tag Cloud