Landlord Carl Haglund has dropped what remained of his defamation lawsuit against Sawant. Her outside defense cost the city $258,752.78. Still pending is a defamation case filed by two Seattle police officers against Sawant and the city.
One defamation lawsuit dismissed, at a cost of a quarter of a million dollars, and another still in court.
Freedom of speech, as practiced by City Councilmember Kshama Sawant, is running up the attorney fees.
Landlord Carl Haglund, who took issue with Sawant’s referring to him as a “slumlord” and, to strengthen her point, as a “notorious slumlord,” on Friday dropped his remaining defamation claims against the city and Sawant.
Previously, U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman had ruled against Haglund on four of his nine claims, siding with the city’s argument that they “fail as a matter of law.”
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It’s an expensive win.
The city says the Haglund suit has cost taxpayers $258,752.78 so far in outside attorney’s fees.
Both Haglund and the city agreed they’d each be responsible for their own costs and fees.
“We were able to bring an immediate end to a $25 million claim without paying any money to Mr. Haglund,” said Dan Nolte, a spokesman for the City Attorney’s Office. “There was no guarantee the city would be able to recoup attorney fees so we’re very pleased with this result.”
One of the exhibits included what his lawsuit says was an image that came from a 2015 Sawant re-election campaign leaflet. It shows a nasty-looking rat on its hind legs, with a name tag that reads, “Carl Haglund,” and captioned, “Slumlord!”
The city is also defending Sawant in another defamation lawsuit, this one brought by Seattle police Officers Scott Miller and Michael Spaulding.
They claim Sawant falsely declared they had committed “brutal murder” in the 2016 fatal shooting of Che Taylor. An inquest jury later found the officers believed Taylor posed a threat of death or serious injury when they shot him.
In a Facebook video dated Feb. 25, 2016, Sawant is seen at a downtown protest using a megaphone. She can be heard talking about “the brutal murder of Che Taylor, the blatant murder at the hands of the police … I am here as an elected official … I am completely committed to holding the Seattle Police Department accountable …”
That suit is ongoing.
Nolte says the city needed lawyers “with specific expertise” and is using outside counsel in both defamation cases.
At the start of the Haglund case, the city was given an “initial proposed budget” of $185,000 by the K&L Gates law firm as its outside counsel — now $73,752.78 over the estimate. No estimate was given for costs for the police officers’ suit.
As for how much it might cost the city in defending the defamation case from the two cops, Nolte says, “I’m not going to speculate on potential costs for the other case. Each case is different.”
Here are the statements on the Haglund case, spun by the different parties. Take your pick:
City Attorney Pete Holmes: “Elected representatives must be able to zealously advocate for policy proposals in service of their constituents, regardless of whether others may agree with the tone or substance of their statements. Mr. Haglund’s decision to dismiss his remaining claims against Councilmember Sawant and the City is a victory for free speech and for the right of every person to speak their mind.”
Brad Anderson, attorney for Haglund: “We are disappointed the federal district court summarily dismissed Carl Haglund’s civil right related claims (i.e. due process violations, intentional interference with his business, misappropriation of his name for a City ordinance (”the Carl Haglund Law”) and equal protection) without the opportunity of a jury trial. Still convinced City officials abused their powers, Mr. Haglund is contemplating next steps, which could include an appeal of the judge’s dismissal. Mr. Haglund therefore decided not to pursue the ancillary claims and still hopes he can someday present his case to a jury.”
Sawant: “The speedy dismissal of this lawsuit is important, because it’s a vindication of the rights of renters in a housing market controlled by the big landlord and developer lobby. Congratulations to all of Haglund’s tenants who courageously stood up to deplorable housing conditions, and showed that when renters get organized, we can fight back and win. Our movement needs to keep building to fight evictions, and to win rent control.”