Victory for Freedom of Speech in California!

Posted by James Bopp, Jr. | Jan 21, 2022 | 0 Comments

Los Angeles, California – Yesterday, a federal judge in California dismissed a defamation lawsuit that was filed against famed Christian motivational speaker, Nick Vujicic, who is represented by The Bopp Law Firm.

When someone exercises his right to free speech on a matter of public concern and then is sued for doing so, California law offers special protections for the defendant. In recent years, “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” (“SLAPP”) suits, have become more common. SLAPP suits are frivolous lawsuits designed to intimidate the speaker from exercising his right to free speech. “Anti-SLAPP” laws provide a way for a person sued under such frivolous claims to get the suit dismissed early in the legal process, saving valuable time and resources along the way.

Anatoly Sharij, a well-known Ukranian blogger and political activist, sued Nick Vujicic, who is a renowned Christian motivational speaker, with a worldwide following, including in Ukraine. Mr. Vujicic recorded a video, which was requested via Cameo by someone who said they were Mr. Sharij's “friend.” This Cameo video encouraged Mr. Sharij in his efforts to “encourag[ing] other people with helping others not to be afraid.” However, Mr. Vujicic specifically noted he did not know Mr. Sharij and had never seen his blogs.

Mr. Sharij then altered Mr. Vujicic's Cameo video by: (1) removing the Cameo watermark; (2) editing out the fact that another person requested the Cameo video from Mr. Vujicic; and (3) editing out that Mr. Vujicic was not personally familiar with Mr. Sharij and had not seen his blogs. Once this video was published, Mr. Vujicic became aware of Mr. Sharij's political activities. Mr. Vujicic then published a video on his own social media pages, apologizing to his followers for being misinformed by Mr. Sharij and asking Mr. Sharij to take down the altered video. Mr. Sharij then sued Mr. Vujicic, claiming Mr. Vujicic defamed him and cast “false light publicity, when he stated he was “misinformed” by Mr. Sharij.

The judge dismissed Mr. Sharij's suit, stating that he had no reasonable probability of winning his suit against Mr. Vujicic. The judge ruled that Mr. Vujicic's video arose from his exercise of his First Amendment rights. Next, the judge held the video did not contain any false statements and “the lack of a false statement is fatal” to Mr. Sharij's claims.

After this victory, Mr. Vujicic stated, “I praise God and give him the glory for this victory. God promises us that truth ultimately prevails. I am thankful that in this case, truth prevailed!”

“I am thrilled that California's Anti-SLAPP law worked exactly as it should—preventing needless expense and litigation that has no chance of success and is simply designed to quiet someone like Mr. Vujicic,” stated James Bopp, Jr., lead counsel for Mr. Vujicic. “I am a member of the Uniform Law Commission, and we saw the rise in SLAPP suits and have worked to draft a model Anti-SLAPP law, which many states have adopted. I am pleased that such work leads to such real-world results, that saved my client needless time and expense in defending against a frivolous lawsuit.”

“California's Anti-SLAPP law provides for an award of reasonable attorneys fees and costs on behalf of a prevailing Defendant such as Mr. Vujicic,” said Bopp. “We will seek a court award of attorneys fees against Mr. Sharij so that Mr. Vujicic will be made whole.”

About the Author

James Bopp, Jr.

Practice Areas: First Amendment Law, Campaign-Finance Law, Constitutional Law, Election Law, Civil Litigation, Appellate Practice, and United States Supreme Court Practice.


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