Judge Dumps “Ill-Considered” Sahara Lawsuit Against Las Vegas Blogger
We’re thrilled to share a Las Vegas judge and our personal hero, District Judge Trevor Atkin, has dismissed Sahara’s defamation lawsuit against this blog.
The lawsuit was related to a sourced July 2020 rumor we shared that Sahara could close.
When Sahara first raised concerns about our story, we retracted it as a courtesy. That, apparently, didn’t satisfy Sahara. So they sued us, anyway. We’re still a little unclear about how you “retract” something clearly reported as a rumor, but moving on.
On the bright side, Sahara hasn’t closed yet. On the bummer side, in fighting for our First Amendment rights, we had to put a lot of evidence on the record that supports the view Sahara isn’t doing well.
On Sep. 19, 2020, we filed what’s called an anti-SLAPP motion.
Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statue protects free speech and prevents rich people from suing journalists into silence and potentially even bankruptcy. As you may know, we don’t really do silent.
The attorney who filed our anti-SLAPP motion is Marc Randazza, the “father” of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute.
Once Sahara got our Anti-SLAPP motion, four of the five counts in the lawsuit were dropped.
The anti-SLAPP motion was a thing of beauty, and our new favorite person, Judge Atkin, obviously agreed.
The hearing had a number of highlights, including Marc Randazza at one point calling the plaintiff’s argument “adorable.” That’s because you can’t call another lawyer’s argument “moronic,” at least not in court.
Anyway, case dismissed and Sahara pays our hefty legal fees. They can appeal, but then they’d be on the hook for those fees, too, so we’d love for the judge’s ruling to be the end of this unfortunate ordeal.
Well, it was an ordeal for us. Sahara, not so much.
From day one, we tried to work with Sahara to mitigate their concerns. We reached out early and often to try and find some common ground, despite the fact our wish to extend an olive branch to Sahara was sometimes met with billable eye-rolls from our attorney.
If you think about it, it’s so strange olive branches are our symbol of making peace. That dove on the Ark could’ve brought back so many other things. Had things gone differently, we would be extending snails or earthworms.
But back to the legal kerfuffle.
This saga was so unnecessary, and the fallout includes Sahara losing our support when we were one of the casino’s biggest cheerleaders.
We’ve rooted for Sahara’s success all along, and certainly never intended to cause Sahara employees undue alarm. They have enough to worry about.
We’ve shared hundreds of rumors and done many stories based upon industry chatter. It’s how we beat traditional media to the punch time and time again, and it’s one of the reasons we are so beloved. Well, that and 69 jokes.
Not every rumor pans out. Our sources aren’t fortune tellers, nor are we.
But here’s an irrefutable fact: We’ve never made anything up that wasn’t satire.
We had a source for our Sahara story, a representative of a liquidation company asked to bid for the removal and sale of all the physical assets at Sahara. The liquidation bids were set to expire at the end of September, according to the source, hence his belief the resort might close at that time.
We did share an unconfirmed rumor, but it wasn’t a “baseless” rumor.
The bottom line is Sahara didn’t meet the requirements for prevailing in a defamation lawsuit, so it was tossed.
While we will get our legal fees back, we won’t get back the three months we spent dealing with this legal shitshow.
Sahara made numerous demands to settle, demands we considered unreasonable.
We refused to give up our sources.
We refused to never write about, or share industry chatter about, Sahara again.
We refused to allow Sahara “prior restraint,” or review and approval of our stories about Sahara before their publication.
Yes, those were among the demands.
This was never about the money for Sahara, it was about shutting us up. Actually, shutting me up. Scott Roeben. Because while I use the first personal plural (“we”) on this blog, it’s just one person. Holy crap, that was the first time in the history of this blog where I used the first person. That’s so weird.
Back to your regularly scheduled first person plural.
We did everything we could to work with Sahara, to try and salvage the relationship, but nope.
We’ve even been “evicted,” a casino term for banning someone, from Sahara. Which is a shame, because we’ve always talked the place up. Any remaining goodwill has been exhausted.
Emphasis on exhausted.
It’s a wonderful feeling to be vindicated in court, due in no small part to the brilliance of First Amendment champion Marc Randazza.
But mostly we feel spent. The cost, the stress, the continued attacks from Sahara. We’re ready to move on.
But no way we’re moving on before taking a victory lap. Do you know this blog at all?
We beat their ass, and free speech won.
During the lawsuit, and upon announcement of the judge’s dismissal, we’ve received an incredible outpouring of support. Your support has meant the world to us during this trying time.
The only real bright spot in this mess is Sahara has probably stayed open just to spite us. That’s great for the employees, and while we won’t be able to tell them our feelings in person, they know we love them and miss them. Especially the bartenders at Bazaar Meat and Casbar Lounge and the taco place. You know who you are.
As you know, 2020 has been a complete dumpster fire. Not all the news is going to be good news.
The dismissal of this case is good news, not just for us, but for all the journalists and broadcasters and bloggers and podcasters and Twitter enthusiasts out there.
The First Amendment is worth fighting for, and we’ll keep doing what we do. Gird your loins.
Update (4/26/21): While this case was dismissed in Oct. 2020, Sahara and its clueless lawyers (presumably at the instruction of butthurt Sahara owner Alex Meruelo), continued to file motions and appeals in the case in an attempt to inflate our legal bills to the point of capitulation. In the words of Thurgood Marshall, “We don’t capitulate, asshats.”
The legal bullying continued well into 2021. An “Order Granting Stipulation to Close Case” was filed April 6, 2021. The document shares “The Court’s Judgment in favor of Roeben and against LVRH [Las Vegas Resort Holdings LLC] in the amount of $93,865.30 is fully satisfied, inclusive of all interest.” Sahara ended up paying substantially more than $95,000 in our legal fees due to the case being baseless.
The bottom line is a billionaire tried to bankrupt us, just as Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson did to journalists before there was an anti-SLAPP statute in Nevada. So, while the statute did help to a degree, the system still allows for a metric ass-ton of bullshit. Thanks, again, to legal whiz Marc Randazza. He ran circles around Sahara’s legal team, and by doing so ensured other journalists are protected from wealthy individuals with virtually limitless resources, but sans clue about the First Amendment, intent on silencing them. At no point during our case did any, not even one, of the filings, motions or appeals by Sahara’s legal team prevail. None. Skunked. In the vernacular of the legal world, “Alex Meruelo and his lawyers had their asses handed to them.”
We have decided we will no longer talk about Sahara, until we feel like it (say, if the resort goes belly up). Not because it was a condition of ending the legal battle with Sahara, and not because we fear further legal action about something else we might say that Alex Meruelo doesn’t like, but because we’d rather not give them the exposure. Our victory in this case didn’t get nearly the news coverage the initial lawsuit did. Shocker. It doesn’t matter. We get to gloat and regale friends and fans with the tale of our victory over a billionaire. F that guy.