Prior suit over ‘mismanagement’ of funds
Having won dismissal on free-speech grounds of a lawsuit filed by a coalition of Black Lives Matter chapters, the BLM Global Network Foundation is seeking nearly $450,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.
The plaintiffs had accused the foundation of defrauding the local activist groups. But Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick heard arguments on the case in April, took the case under submission and issued her amended ruling granting dismissal on July 10.
The foundation lawyers’ “exhaustive and detailed efforts are what resulted in the successful outcome and a full vindication of (the foundation’s) position that its activities were protected activity and not subject to the claims in plaintiff’s complaint,” the defense attorneys maintain in their court papers filed on Sept. 1. The lawyers are asking for $436,650 in attorneys’ fees and just under $9,100 in costs from the plaintiffs, and say the litigation has done more than just monetary harm.
“Despite (the foundation’s) hard-fought legal victory, the gravity of the allegations asserted by plaintiff in this public-facing lawsuit and the reputational harm to the Black Lives Matter movement that followed as a consequence of plaintiff’s baseless allegations has undoubtedly left a stain on the storied history of BLM,” according to the foundation attorneys’ court papers.
The lawsuit was filed in September 2022 by Black Lives Matter Grassroots Inc. and also named as a defendant Shalomya Bowers, a consultant and foundation board member. The plaintiffs alleged that the foundation, which has been a clearinghouse for donations to support BLM over the years, has fundraised off the work of the chapters, but mismanaged the funds and had shut local chapters out of decision making.
Addressing the unjust enrichment allegation against the foundation, the judge said she agreed with the entity’s attorneys that the plaintiff’s evidence “fails to establish ... that it was entitled to any of the donated funds at issue or that defendants have been enriched.”
The judge also dismissed the part of the case against Bowers, finding that the plaintiff “fails to establish it has standing to bring its claims and therefore plaintiff fails to establish a probability of prevailing on its claims.”
The dismissal motions were brought under the state’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law, which is intended to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate those who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
A hearing on the attorneys’ fees and costs motion is scheduled for Jan. 30.