This Time About Personal Jurisdiction

Today’s Judge Christina Reiss (D. Vt. ) decision is effective immediately Helali v. LegardeI was aware of this case when it was filed.

Allergations made in the Complaint

Plaintiff and Ms. Legarde lived together in Boston in early 2016. The relationship came to an abrupt halt in May 2016. Their daughter S.A.L. was born to Ms. Legarde in 2017. The Plaintiff spent time in Syria between January 2017 and September 2017. He returned to America on September 2017. He was a resident of Vershire, Vermont for a period of “a few months”.

In December 2018, Ms. Legarde found out that Plaintiff had been returning to the United States. “Ms. Legarde then began engaging in aggressive and threatening behaviour toward Mr. Helali.” In order to get him out of the country, this included threats to Mr. Helali and contact with his family. Plaintiff attempted three unsuccessfully to secure a Vermont Superior Court order of relief from abuse between January 22nd, 2019 and February 22, 2021. On January 22, 2021, Plaintiff’s last attempted to obtain relief-from-abuse orders from Vermont Superior Court was turned down. After that, Ms. Legarde “embarked upon a willful and malicious, relentless, vicious defamation attack against him.”[.]”

Six separate tweets were posted by Ms. Legarde on Twitter, accusing Mr. Helali as a rapist and sexual assault victim. Between March 25, 2019, and February 16, 20,21, Ms. Legarde posted 33 statements online on Facebook, Twitter and other sites accusing Plaintiff, among others, of sexual assault, abuse, abandonment, war crimes and theft.

On or about April 17, 2019, Ms. Legarde called Ernie Kohlsaat, a Vermont resident and editor of The Valley News Plaintiff wrote articles for a New Hampshire newspaper. Ms. Legarde informed Mr. Kohlsaat Plaintiff was dishonorably discharged, had sexually assaulted and abused her, had committed theft, and that she had been anti-Semitic.

Amanda Wedegis (a Vermont resident, and editor of The ), was emailed by Ms. Legarde on or around April 12, 2019. Vermont Journal Plaintiff was accused of writing articles. Plaintiff is accused of sexual assault, theft, anti-Semitism and abuse by Ms. Legarde. Ms. Legarde claimed that Ms. Wedegis was convinced by her correspondence to take down an article Plaintiff had posted on the blog. Vermont Journal Website and stop its publication in print.

Ms. Legarde sent Martha Hennessy an email on February 20, 2020. She accused Plaintiff of being sexually assaulted and was dishonorably dismissed from the military. Aaron Hoopes was also called by Ms. Legarde in February 2020. He is a Vermont resident, and the President of Vershare, which is based in Vershire. Plaintiff has previously been involved with Vershare. Ms. Legarde called Aaron Hoopes, a Vermont resident and President of the Board of Directors for Vershare. This was an organization in Vershire, Vermont with which Plaintiff had worked.[ied]To convince [Mr. Hoopes]To severe professional ties [Plaintiff,]”Repeated what Mr. Hoopes called “very slanderous allegations.”[,]He directed Mr. Hoopes at what Mr. Hoopes described to be an “antiChris Helali site.”

Ms. Legarde reached out to Vermonters Josh Wronski, Vermont State Senator Anthony Pollina and charged Plaintiff with sexual assault, anti-Semitism and abuse.

Plaintiff claims that Ms. Legarde made false statements to Vermont residents and posted them online. Plaintiff claims that Plaintiff’s statements to Vermont residents and online posts by Ms. Legarde were false and defamatory.[a]In all instances, Ms. Legarde understood that the tortious emotional, privacy, and reputational injuries she had intentionally caused to Mr. Helali were felt in Vermont. The defamatory remarks made by Ms. Legarde allegedly caused Mr. Helali “continuing impairment of reputation and diminished standing within the community, personal shame, injury and embarrassment as well mental distress and anguish and professional and financial loss.”

Now, it is a matter of whether plaintiff has sufficiently alleged Vermont contacts to permit the lawsuit to proceed to Vermont’s federal court.

A distinction is made between specific and general personal jurisdiction to determine whether the defendant has sufficient’minimum contact’. When a forum has personal jurisdiction over defendants in suits arising from or related to their contacts with that forum, it is called specific jurisdiction.[.]The general jurisdiction is, in contrast to general jurisdiction. This refers to the defendant’s general business relationships with the forum. A court can exercise its powers even if the case subject of the suit does not relate to these contacts. When determining whether or not it can have jurisdiction over an outside-state defendant, a court must assess the ‘quality & nature.[]’ … of the defendant’s contacts with the forum state under a totality of the circumstances test[.]”Plaintiff asserts that the court is only able to exercise specific personal jurisdiction over Ms. Legarde.

“[A] State may authorize its courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over an out-of­ state defendant if the defendant has ‘certain minimum contacts with [the State]So that maintenance of suit is not in violation of ‘traditional notions fair play and substantial justice’ The fair warning requirement for establishing personal jurisdiction is met if the defendant intentionally directed his actions. [or her]Activities at forum residents, and litigation results from injuries that are alleged to arise out of those activities.

To allow the court to have specific jurisdiction, the suit must “rise out of” or relate to defendant’s interactions with the forum. The defendant must have “”some intentional act of availing the forum.”[ed]It is entitled to conduct activities in the forum state, and thus invokes the protections and benefits of its laws. “Minimum contacts” analysis only considers the defendant’s contact with the forum State and not defendant’s interactions with people who live there. It is not enough to prove the “foreseeability” of inflicting injury in another state. “The plaintiff cannot be the sole link between the forum and defendant.” …

Calder v. Jones, The Supreme Court ruled that California had specific jurisdiction over Californian non-resident defendants publishing an article citing a California resident as libelous. The Supreme Court noted:

This is what matters most Calder It was the fact that California-based reputation effects of the alleged defamation connected defendants and plaintiff. These were the




The nature of the libel tort was an important factor in the strength of this connection. Even though a newspaper article may be scandalous, it cannot cause a loss in reputation if not communicated (and understood) by third parties. The defendants’ article, which was intended for publication in California, caused a reputational loss. Because publication to third people is a required element of libel the defendants intentional tort occurred in California. In this way, the “effects” caused by the defendants’ article—i.e., the injury to the plaintiffs reputation in the estimation of the California public—connected the defendants’ conduct to California, not just to a plaintiff who lived there. The article’s California focus and this connection alone sufficed to allow the California court jurisdiction.

“Exercises of jurisdiction under these circumstances is ‘lawfully permissible’ if the defendant has explicitly directed its behavior at the forum.

(1) Ms. Legarde asserts that (1)[m]Vermont does not recognize the use of the internet for posting information.[,]” (2) “statements … made from outside of Vermont via email and telephone to residents in Vermont cannot form the sole basis for jurisdiction[,](3) Plaintiff fails to claim that Ms. Legarde was “expressly targeted” at Vermont. Ms. Legarde also claims that her conduct after Dec 2018, when she discovered Mr. Legarde was living in Vermont, is “not to be considered the central point of the tort or injury suffered.”

This case is directly within the realm of “effects tests” theory. Calder. These allegedly offensive statements that Ms. Legarde used included online postings as well as defamatory comments in emails and calls to six individuals whom Ms. Legarde knew were Vermont residents. Ms. Legarde also allegedly made defamatory statements about Plaintiff’s affiliations through Vermont-based organisations. Plaintiff asserts that the defamatory statements made by Ms. Legarde were meant to have an adverse effect on him in Vermont. Plaintiff claims that Ms. Legarde is “tr.”[ied]To convince [Aaron Hoopes, with whom Plaintiff had worked in a Vermont grassroots organization,]”To severe professional ties to Mr. Helali”; and Ms. Legarde’s email correspondence with editor of the Vermont Journal Amanda Wedegis convinced Ms. Wedegis (A), to stop Mr. Helali’s piece from appearing in print edition Vermont Journal Both (A and B) take the exact same piece from this publication’s site. Ms. Legarde is also accused of having contacted Mr. Wronski (representatives of Vermont’s political party) to make allegations against Plaintiff for sexual assault, anti-Semitism and theft.

Although it is possible to post on the internet without proving intent, Plaintiff claims that Ms. Legarde directed her conduct at Vermonters through online postings and other communications. Plaintiff asserts that Plaintiff was targeted by these posts. Plaintiff claims that Ms. Legarde posted about Ms. Wedegis’ correspondence and the harmful consequences it had on Plaintiff, in an internet blog post. This was allegedly defamatory. According to the Complaint, Ms. Legarde “intentionally directed the adverse effects of her activities in Vermont” and “knew that the emotional, reputational and employment-related tortious injuries she was deliberately causing Mr. Helali’s would be felt in Vermont.”

According to Ms. Legarde, the alleged actions of Ms. Legarde weren’t “random”, fortuitous or attenuated contact[,]”” or “the unilateral action of a plaintiffl”, but rather “intentional conduct from the defendant that makes the required contacts with the forum”. Direct contact was made with the plaintiff and circulated her messages and other communications via internet to Vermont residents. The tort of defamation was committed. There were also effects due to the tort. [Vermont]Public[,]Connected [Ms. Legarde’s]Perform to [Vermont]”, and not to the plaintiff who lived there.” “In sum, [Vermont]It is both the center and the hub of all things. [tortious acts]and for the damage suffered.” SAlso see Tamburo V. Dworkin (7th Cir. 2010. “Tortious acts that are directed at the target of the forum state with the explicit purpose to cause injury” (Supplemental). Calder’s express-aiming requirement.”)….

Construing the facts alleged in the Complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiff, he has established that Ms. Legarde has sufficient “minimum contacts” with Vermont for specific jurisdiction….