Daily Dicta: Kirkland Client Gets the Last Word Against Online Trolls
"This ruling is a precedent-setting moment in the fight against online hate, bigotry, and harassment,” said Kirkland partner Emily Hughes.
No sooner had Taylor Dumpson been inaugurated in 2017 as the first female African American student government president at American University than a masked man hung bananas inscribed with racial slurs from nooses around the District of Columbia campus.
It got worse.
Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, piled on, urging his white supremacist followers to “troll storm” her. Anglin published Dumpson’s name, photo, and direct links to her social media accounts.
Represented pro bono by Kirkland & Ellis partners Emily Hughes and Ragan Naresh and associate Tracie Bryant, along with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the Washington Lawyers’ Committee, Dumpson sued Anglin and his company, as well as two men who allegedly sent her “hateful, intimidating, and harassing messages.”
The complaint alleged violations of District of Columbia Human Rights Act of 1977, the Bias-Related Crime Act of 1989 and District of Columbia tort law, claiming that the hateful messages interfered with Dumpson’s enjoyment of places of public accommodation.
On August 9, Dumpson won a default judgment against Anglin.
“The harassment targeted her because of her race and gender, and affected her use and enjoyment of the AU campus because she no longer felt safe on campus in the way she had previously,” wrote U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer of the District of Columbia.
Collyer awarded Dumpson more than $700,000 in damages and attorneys’ fees, and a restraining order.
“This ruling is a precedent-setting moment in the fight against online hate, bigotry, and harassment,” Hughes said. “It recognizes that online hate and harassment on the basis of gender and race can and did interfere with our client’s rights to the use and enjoyment of a place of public accommodation and that such interference is actionable and has real consequences for those who engage in such crimes and misconduct.”
But will Dumpson actually collect?
Mmm … get in line.
Anglin, who now supposedly lives in a secret location overseas, is a popular litigation target.
The day before Dumpson’s win, for example, a federal magistrate judge recommended that Anglin be forced to pay a $14 million default judgment to Tanya Gersh, a Jewish real estate agent in Montana who was involved in a property dispute with the mother of another white supremacist. Writing on the Daily Stromer, Anglin called on his followers troll storm Gersh and her family. “Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda,” Anglin wrote.
And in June, litigators from Latham & Watkins scored a $4.1 million default win against Anglin on behalf of Dean Obeidallah, a writer, political commentator, SiriusXM radio host and comedian, who sued Anglin for libel in the Southern District of Ohio. Anglin published an article on the Daily Stormer where he falsely said Obeidallah planned and executed the terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert that killed 23 and injured 250.