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Dismissed Professor vs. Student Libel Lawsuit Leads to Sanctions Requests, Denied All Around

From the Austin American-Statesman, Laura Korte (The Backstory):

One University of Texas professor, who has been widely criticized for his views on male relations with antiquity’s underage boys was suing another student. He claims that he made false statements.

Thomas K. Hubbard was a long-standing professor in UT’s classics program. This week, he filed a federal complaint in Austin alleging that Sarah Blakemore (UT sophomore) and 10 other individuals listed as John Does committed libel by making and distributing a flyer calling on his dismissal.

In the lawsuit, Blakemore, along with John Does, made numerous false statements about Hubbard, his writings, that eventually led to significant damages to Hubbard’s reputation, mental anguish, as well as emotional distress.

(For additional information, read this Inside Higher Ed (Colleen Flaherty story.

Today’s Report and Recommendation are available in Blakemore v. HubbardThis is a Magistrate Judge Dustin Howell’s (W.D. Tex.(Tex.

Sarah Allen Blakemore is a defendant and seeks sanctions for Plaintiff Thomas Hubbard (Ph.D.). He dismissed the suit against Blakemore. {Blakemore identifies herself as “the daughter of a prominent Republican” in her pleadings.} Hubbard sued her, she claims. He wanted to press the University of Texas into settling his age discrimination cases. Blakemore states that Hubbard obtained a $700,000.00 settlement deal with the University. The terms of the agreement mandated that he dismiss Blakemore’s claims.

Blakemore claims that Hubbard’s claims against she were frivolous, brought in bad faith and are frivolous. She requests that the Undersigned give her sanctions according to her “inherent power”, and under 28 U.S.C. § 1927. Blakemore requested that her attorneys’ fees be recovered as sanctions. Hubbard replies that Blakemore’s motion was frivolous and requests in her return sanctions to cover the cost of responding.

Hubbard is filing a suit against Blakemore in defamation. Hubbard claimed that she circulated and published a flyer about Blakemore to various third parties within and around University of Texas. Hubbard also stated on Twitter that many statements Hubbard believes are false. Hubbard is a witness to the following statements:

  • He has “advocated for pederasty, pedophilia for as long as the University of Texas has had him teaching”
  • “Used his position to promote a group of people hoping to prey upon underaged boys.”
  • Hubbard describes “proper learning opportunities” in his academic writing.
  • I taught the course “Mythology of Rape”, which was eventually banned by the University of Texas.
  • The North American Man/Boy Love Association (NAMBLA ‘),” Blakemore described it as “formerly the largest pedophile activism group in the world” and Hubbard is listed on the NAMBLA Wikipedia pages.

In the flyer, Hubbard was asked to be removed and it states:

A person who promotes violent crime against teenage boys is not qualified to teach the future leaders. It is clear that the University of Texas does not have its students’ safety, health, and welfare in mind …. We will not stand by and allow this man to use his power to spread pedophilia.

Additionally. Hubbard claimed Blakemore had slandered her in an interview that she did for the Austin American Stateman. Hubbard claimed that Blakemore’s statements are defamatory and false. This has caused him to lose his reputation. Blakemore’s statements caused him to suffer damages when his house was vandalized with the word “CHILD RAPIST” spray-painted onto it. Blakemore claimed that this made him afraid and forced him into California. In her defense, Blakemore argued that the statements in the flyer, Twitter, and to the media were true or substantially true, and that they were also a matter of opinion….

After reviewing Blakemore’s exhibits, the undersigned finds that they are insufficient to apply sanctions to Hubbard and his lawyers pursuant to Court’s inherent power. Blakemore’s motion to impose sanctions stems largely from her belief that Hubbard and the two University of Texas students she is accusing of age discrimination were brought against them to press the University of Texas into settling Hubbards suit. Her evidence relies on Hubbard asking for a substantial payout in order to settle an earlier suit with University of Texas several years ago. This was declined by the University. Hubbard also dismissed her claims against her along with those of two students.

Blakemore is not able to raise the evidence necessary for the undersigned. They do not believe that Hubbard brought the litigation against her in bad faith, was oppressive, or was vexatious. Hubbard provided evidence that a portion of his EEOC Case included a discrimination case based on sexual orientation. Hubbard also stated that the University had created a hostile working environment for Hubbard through the publication of the flyer, Blakemore, and others. Hubbard also submitted evidence showing that Blakemore stated that after she distributed the flyer, she spoke with Jim Davis, the Vice President for Legal Affairs at the University, and that they gave him copies. President Greg Fenves discussed the flyer as well and told Blakemore to “not worry” about Hubbard’s suit.

Hubbard provided evidence to show why Hubbard claimed against Blakemore was settled in settlement. These reasons were not related to Hubbard’s previous age discrimination suit but demonstrate the University’s determination to limit its exposure. If Blakemore’s suit continues, Hubbard would have no idea of the University’s actions. Blakemore’s use of Blakemore as a “bargaining tool” and citing the settlement agreement in “evidence” that Hubbard made claims against Blakemore is just conjecture.

Blakemore claims that Hubbard is wrongly claiming against her because the flyer and statements which he makes a complaint about are expressions of Blakemore’s views and/or truthful statements. She asks for the undersigned’s opinion and to determine whether Hubbard has merited her claims and defenses. On the face of it, Hubbards claims seem reasonable. However, the undersigned believes that a jury should decide their merit after trial. It is not possible to make this determination based upon the evidence available. Hubbard’s claims and pleadings are not bad faith.

Blakemore is also fond of Hubbard ‘claims against John Does. Hubbard claims that his house was vandalized after the publication of defamatory statements. He cites this attack in his complaint as the reason for his emotional anguish. Blakemore asserts Hubbard said that Hubbard had never believed that she was in collaboration with those who vandalized his home, and that Blakemore’s “admission” is proof that John Doe claims of being vexatious.

Blakemore did not claim that Hubbard was the one who caused Blakemore’s home vandalism, although she claimed that Hubbard said that Blakemore had encouraged their violence. Hubbard submitted evidence that Blakemore had known who attacked Hubbards’ home shortly afterward. She also claimed to have been in touch with the group. The flyer was also published by “Students for Safety”, although Blakemore was not named in it. Hubbard’s counsel and Hubbard had good reasons to name John Does as part of his lawsuit in connection with the defamation allegations. Blakemore does not have evidence that Hubbard’s John Doe claims against him were filed for an improper purpose, or in bad faith.

With regard to Blakemore’s claims pursuant to § 1927, Blakemore complains that the defamation suits filed against two other individuals for other statements made at other times students show Hubbard’s desire to needlessly multiply the proceedings and increase expenses to the defendants when he could have brought a single suit. Hubbard is not required to file his claims against different people in the same suit. The three suit Defendants could have consolidated the cases, but did not. Blakemore also failed to address why Hubbard sued three different individuals in separate suits. It could have increased Hubbard’s litigation costs. Hubbard’s lawyer did not file separate lawsuits in bad faith. This argument lacks merit.

{Hubbard asks the Court to sua sponte inflict sanctions upon Blakemore as a result of her sanction motion. The undersigned finds that the parties’ best interests are served by getting off the sanctions merry-go-round, and declines to award sanctions to Hubbard.}