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SPLC Hires High-Powered Defamation Lawyer to Defend Tax-Exempt Status in RICO Lawsuit

On Thursday evening, Baltimore attorney Glen Keith Allen, who is suing the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) for racketeering, wire fraud, defamation, and other claims, told PJ Media that the SPLC has hired a high-powered attorney to defend them in the case. Among other things, Allen's suit demands a court judgment against the SPLC's 501c3 tax-exempt status, which could seriously cripple the organization.

"The SPLC Defendants have engaged Chad Bowman of Ballard Spahr, a large and well-regarded D.C. law firm, as their counsel," Allen told PJ Media in an email statement. He also said that he has formally "served" the SPLC, Heidi Beirich, and Mark Potok and that they have acknowledged and received the service. In other words, it's on.

Ballard Spahr is a Philadelphia-based law firm with more than 650 lawyers nationwide. It was founded in 1885 and is highly respected in the legal field.

Chad R. Bowman is a Washington, D.C. counselor and litigator who focuses on working with new media and legacy media organizations, as well as other nonprofit and for-profits engaged in speech and public advocacy. Before joining Ballard Spahr, Bowman worked as a reporter at The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. (BNA). He has represented media clients in cases involving defamation, privacy, copyright, subpoena, access, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), and other First Amendment issues.

Bowman defended the Associated Press against a libel claim from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, defended Gawker against a defamation claim from former Major League Baseball pitcher Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams, defended The New Yorker against a defamation claim from Canadian art authenticator Paul Biro, and defended CBS Interactive against a defamation claim from Hall of Fame basketball player Scottie Pippen.

The SPLC's decision to hire an attorney with such a high profile, rather than looking to their own internal counsel, suggests a real fear that Allen's lawsuit has teeth and may prevail.

For his part, Allen told PJ Media he "filed a pro hac vice motion for the admission of Frederick C. Kelly, a New York lawyer," to serve as co-counsel.

The lawyer is expecting the SPLC to file a motion to dismiss.

As for the process moving forward, Allen sent PJ Media this rough timeline of the stages of a lawsuit:

  • complaint filed
  • complaint served on defendants
  • initial disclosures and scheduling order
  • negotiation of a confidentiality agreement
  • defendants' motion to dismiss, i.e., argument that complaint on its face fails to state a viable claim
  • if complaint survives a motion to dismiss, discovery, e.g., document exchange, interrogatories, depositions, and subpoenas to third parties
  • defendants' motion for summary judgment based on what discovery revealed, i.e., argument that no reasonable fact finder could find for the plaintiff based on the evidence brought out in the discovery phase
  • if the plaintiff survives the motion for summary judgment, on to trial
  • trial
  • post-trial motions by the losing party
  • appeal to the federal circuit court of appeals (the Fourth Circuit in my case) by the losing party
  • possible petition for review (writ of certiorari) by the U.S. Supreme Court -- discretionary (Supreme Court accepts only a small fraction of certiorari petitions)