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ACLU pays costs of dismissed lawsuit against Clemons

BY JENNIFER CABRERA

The Florida House of Representatives has received a check for $2410.85 from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Foundation of Florida, Inc., as ordered on July 12, 2021, by Judge Mark Walker in Peter Morgan Attwood’s case against State Representative Chuck Clemons.

Attwood, represented by the ACLU, sued Clemons in March of 2018 for blocking him from Clemons’ campaign’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Just 3 weeks before the case was scheduled for a bench trial on June 7, 2021, Attwood requested voluntary dismissal with prejudice. Clemons’ attorneys argued in a May 24 filing that a judgment on the merits would best serve the public interest because the threat of such a lawsuit in the future would have a “chilling effect” on legislators’ abilities to manage their social media pages. 

In that response, Clemons’ attorneys presented evidence that the lawsuit was filed to inflict political harm and specifically to harm Clemons’ re-election prospects in 2020. Attwood was introduced to his lawyer by Gainesville City Commissioner Adrian Hayes-Santos, and Hayes-Santos also connected Attwood with Andrew Caplan, who was a Gainesville Sun reporter at the time, on the day Attwood filed his lawsuit. In an exhibit attached to the response, a screenshot showed a message from Hayes-Santos to Attwood saying, “No problem, and thank you for bringing the lawsuit. It’s not an easy thing to put yourself in the middle of.”

The response from Clemons’ attorneys also provided emails showing that Attwood privately expressed a desire to “humiliate” Clemons “before this election.” Also, following Clemons’ deposition in the case, Attwood’s attorney, Eric Lindstrom, leaked information from the deposition, in violation of court-ordered confidentiality obligations, to a friend, Jeremiah Tattersall, who is also a frequent Clemons critic. Later, Katy Burnett, who managed the campaign of Clemons’ opponent in the 2018 general election, posted information about the deposition on Facebook, and minutes later, Tattersall posted a comment disclosing additional information from the deposition. All of these disclosures happened around the time that vote-by-mail ballots were being distributed for the general election, which was expected to involve a higher than usual number of votes by mail because of the pandemic.

After Clemons was re-elected in November 2020, Attwood appeared to lose interest in pursuing the case and offered to settle, although he had previously said he wanted the case to be a test case. Clemons declined the settlement, explaining that he wanted a “ruling on the merits” of the case. Less than two hours later, Attwood’s lawyer filed a public records request for information about the costs of defending the lawsuit, and that information was posted on Twitter by Tattersall and covered in various media outlets. 

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Attwood’s motion to dismiss with prejudice acknowledged that the dismissal would be the same as “if the case had been adjudicated in [Clemons’s] favor after a trial.” Clemons’ attorneys argued that if the lawsuit was dismissed with prejudice, the Court should also determine that Clemons was the prevailing party and award him costs. Judge Walker ordered further briefings on the issue and awarded $2410.85 in costs for transcriptionists, stenographers, and videographers for depositions to Clemons. Walker, however, ruled that the case was not frivolous and that Clemons was not entitled to attorney’s fees. Since it is an issue that is relevant to House members’ First Amendment rights, the Florida House of Representatives paid the bills for the lawsuit of at least $185,000, and the reimbursement check went to the House.

Clemons said, “I feel this case was a politically motivated hatchet job from the beginning. This check is a small victory, but a court verdict would have been better. The First Amendment is for everyone, including elected officials managing their personal accounts.”

  • Is Tattersall the head of the local communist party?
    He may be the reason for the massive rent increases
    And the new landlord permits & inspections that are
    Coming in October…All these commie ideas just make
    Things more expensive for everyone….As a landlord,
    I’m laughing my way to the bank! I doubled my rents
    And got it! Thanks Tattersall for the unintended consequences of your commie ideas…it really helped
    This landlord capitalist!!! Ha, ha, ha, ha…LMAO!!!

    • You doubled your rent because you have to pay some $100 every few years for a license that includes an inspection which will identify problems keep your properties from decreasing in value? Which properties do you own? I’m sure you’re renters would love to know you jacked up their rent because you hate someone on the internet.

  • Yes. That’s the story. Clemons blocked the Mayor of Gainesville for endorsing his opponent and he got sued, was forced to give up his twitter account to his staff, agreed to retire his account when he leaves office, wasted hundreds of thousands of tax payer money defending his right to block people he politically disagrees with from his official Representative account, and in his failed motion for summery judgement set a prescient that has been cited in similar cases saying in a nut shell what Clemons did was wrong. But yes, he was able to weasel out $2.4k out of the ACLU. Yep, that’s the story.

    • When did Mr. Attwood become the Mayor of Gainesville?

      • In the lawsuit it came out that Representative Clemons blocked Mayor Poe because he endorsed his opponent. Let that sink in. The mayor of the largest city in his district by orders of magnitude because he endorsed his opponent. Something about free speech and being a snow flake? This account is used by the Representative to relay critical information and to communicate with the public. But again, the real story here is that ACLU paid the court filing costs of some $2.4k even though WE taxpayers paid hundreds of thousands for Representative Clemons to have a fit. These are all court filings that Cabrera has. I know because my tweet up there is in these filings. But that would be… what? Honest? Journalism? Responsible reporting? Not acting as a mouth piece for Clemons? I’m sure Jonathan Williams will get appointed a judge or some other cushy job for carrying so much radioactive water.

        https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pcV_rZPn8jUkBnxrLLyPoZ1vBLUl5ltJ/view?usp=sharing

        • So Mayor Poe had an issue? Was he behind the Attwood lawsuit or was that you and Commissioner Hayes-Santos?

          • It was a larger cabal of cultural marxist who get their marching orders from the moon.
            No, Attwood sent his representative information about gun violence and was blocked. He was upset and felt this was a violation of his rights to have access to his elected representative. He mentioned this to a friend who got him in contact with an attorney. To prove his blocking was due to political speech the lawyer subpoenaed records and did an interview with Clemons. In said interview he said he blocked the Mayor because he was hurt the mayor endorsed his opponent. I think that is a more interesting story than Attwoods or that the ACLU paid less than 1% the cost of the tax payer funded defense of Clemons’ hurt feelings.

            Now, what the Chron is focusing on is that Clemons, in order to prove that this entire thing was done in order to further hurt his feelings, sued for the $300+ (might be over $500k) and the judge said no because it wasn’t. But then he sued for $2.4k for the filing fees and got it so, you know, ACLU is a communist and everyone else is a communist and the communist of the communist did a communist while they communisted which is why he got the $2.4 k.

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