The full March 4, 2011 dismissal hearing transcript for Ronald Federici v Monica Pignotti et al. is now available via the Citizen Media Law website and can be downloaded by going here.
The transcript shows that the case was dismissed for all named defendants (Monica Pignotti, Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Larry Sarner, Linda Rosa and Advocates for Children in Therapy) on the grounds of jurisdiction and additionally dismissed for Mercer and Pignotti for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. [Note that contrary to misportrayals elsewhere, this was not a “split decision”. The reason it was granted for only two of the defendants is that we had different legal representation that plead that way. In other words, the other defendants did not ask for the case to be dismissed on failure to state a claim, hence the judge did not consider that, as he did for us. The difference simply reflects different strategies used by different lawyers. All defendants were granted every motion for dismissal they made.]
Regarding this failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, the honorable Gerald Bruce Lee stated (p. 32):
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 under Virginia 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.
[Exhibit H refers to the posting I made on my blog regarding the letter Ronald Federici wrote to my Dean. A copy of that posting is available by going here. Although my Dean chose to take no action against me, stating that it was irrelevant to my work at FSU, I chose to respond to and expose what was attempted and express my opinions about this, a right that this Federal judge upheld.]
With regard to conspiracy for all defendants (p. 31):
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 with regard to tortious interference and conspiracy for Pignotti and Mercer (p. 33):
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 dismisswill be granted for the reasons just stated.
Contrary to what was stated by Dr. Federici in a response to internet critics on his website, the judge did not declare him an international public figure but instead, stated that he was not going to rule on that at this time one way or the other, stating (p. 32-33):
And I think 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.
Note that there was nothing said about designating him an “international public figure” nor was any statement made about his colleagues. He appears to have based his statement that Federici could be declared a public figure on his advertising on the internet and television. It is clear from this transcript that the dismissal was not based on his being a public figure because the judge had already dismissed it on other grounds, making the issue of public figure moot where this case is concerned.
This official transcript, now public record provides with an objective record of the proceedings and I would urge anyone interested to read the entire transcript.
After the case was also dismissed for the anonymous “John Doe” defendants on June 1, 2011, this case is now officially concluded.