Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Unactionable Hackery

The United States District Court for the District of Columbia has dismissed a suit brought under the Ku Klux Klan Act 

Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman’s name entered the public lexicon in 2019. Vindman was serving a detail on the National Security Council on July 25 of that year when he listened in during the now-infamous phone call between former President Donald Trump and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, which conversation would lead to Trump’s first impeachment. Vindman alleges that, after he reported concerns about the call through official channels and testified before the House Intelligence Committee, a group of conspirators formed an agreement to intimidate and unlawfully retaliate against him. He brings this action against some of those alleged conspirators — namely, Donald Trump, Jr., Rudolph Giuliani, Julia Hahn, and Daniel Scavino, Jr. — alleging that they thereby violated provisions of the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1985(1) and (2). Defendants now move to dismiss the case.

History will be the final judge of Vindman’s actions and the former Administration’s response. This Court’s task is to adjudicate something far narrower: whether Plaintiff’s Complaint pleads facts sufficient to state a claim for civil conspiracy under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). As the Court will explain, Vindman must allege facts that plausibly suggest two things: first, that each Defendant agreed with others not just to vigorously defend their boss, but to unlawfully intimidate or injure Vindman; and second, that one of the co-conspirators committed an unlawful act — e.g., defamation — to further such scheme.

Plaintiff’s pled facts, taken as true, certainly suggest that Defendants leveled harsh, meanspirited, and at times misleading attacks against him. But political hackery alone does not violate § 1985. Because Vindman does not sufficiently allege a violation of the 1871 Act, the Court will grant Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss.

The opinion was authored by District Judge Boasberg. (Mike Frisch)

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