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from Parlatore v. MontalvoDecided by Judge Randolph Moss (DDC) on Tuesday:

This is a defamation suit brought by one attorney practicing before this court, Timothy Parlatore, against another attorney also practicing before this court, Eric Montalvo. This case is just the latest chapter in a dispute that has spread beyond recognition. What began as a whistleblower complaint alleging racial discrimination in the U.S. Navy’s fighter pilot training program; The matter developed into an investigation into Lt. Stephen Shaw, the Navy officer who helped file the whistleblower complaint; It then evolved into an investigation into the naval officers who investigated Lieutenant Shaw to determine whether they had acted for retaliatory purposes and into a second investigation into Lieutenant Shaw; It ultimately led to a lawsuit filed by Lt. Shaw challenging the Navy’s actions against him, and a second lawsuit alleging that the Department of the Navy violated the Privacy Act and that the attorney who represented the investigating officers, Timothy Parlatore, defamed Lt. Shaw; It finally led to the current dispute, which alleges that Lt. Shaw’s attorney, Eric Montalvo, defamed Parlatore in an email exchange between attorneys involved in the privacy/defamation law lawsuits.

What stops the story of giving the mouse a cookie is ultimately the privilege of the judicial process:

Under Virginia common law, “the maker of a privileged communication is afforded complete immunity from liability even if the communication is made maliciously and with the knowledge that it is false.” “Absolute privilege, sometimes called judicial privilege, is broad and applies to communications made in proceedings pending in court or before a quasi-judicial body.” Notably, the Virginia Supreme Court “has expanded the application of absolute privilege far beyond the actual courtroom.” A similar (and arguably more expansive) privilege applies under D.C. law. [Many other jurisdictions follow the same rule. -EV]

“The reason for the rule of absolute privilege in judicial proceedings is to encourage unfettered expression in lawsuits.”[T]The public interest is best served when individuals involved in litigation administering the proceedings are allowed the freedom to speak fully about the issues related to the controversy.'” …

[T]The franchise has four elements. First, the allegedly defamatory statement must have been made by an attorney “in preparation,” “in the institution,” or “during the course of and as part of” the judicial proceeding. Second, the proceeding must be one in which the attorney—that is, the person making the statement—participates as an “attorney.” Identification card. Third, the statement must have “some relation to the action.” Finally, the statement must only have been provided to “interested persons” in the proceeding. Here, Montalvo’s statements meet all four criteria….

Montalvo’s claim that Parlatore “lied under oath” and “did it intentionally” came in an email response to Rule 11 The proposal was drafted by Parlatore, served on Montalvo, and eventually submitted it Shaw v. Moodley. Importantly, the statement relates directly to the allegations in question what….

[T]The lawsuit was ongoing, and the statement in question was clearly “relevant” to that lawsuit. [It was] In direct response to Parlatore’s claim that Montalvo was subject to Rule 11 sanctions for engaging in “frivolous conduct in filing, maintaining, and litigating.” what.…Montalvo was Shaw’s “lead” lawyer…. [And]As the allegedly offensive email itself reflects, it was only distributed to the parties’ attorneys what Lawsuits or their employees….

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