The Witchfinder comments on recent developments in the Gjoni / Quinn case, which seems to be heating up. Eron Gjoni has filed a motion to strike out at least part of Zoe Quinn’s defence to his appeal. (Massachusetts court service page here and archive from today here).
Recent entries for the case make fascinating viewing. Zoe Quinn (real name Chelsea van Valkenburg / Valkerburg) filed a response, slightly late, to Gjoni’s appeal, shortly after a barrage of notices of appearance by her legal team.
The theoretical sanction for lateness is, as I previously reported, that the documents are not admissible and the appellee will not be allowed to make oral argument without the permission of the Court. In practice of course the Court may allow late documents especially if the deadline is only missed by hours.
Now Gjoni’s lawyers have had a chance to review the brief, looks like they are putting the funds he has raised to good use. Gjoni has filed two motions – firstly he is asking the Court to take note of fresh documents, and secondly he is asking that the Court strike out at least part of Quinn’s defence.
‘Strike out’ is a legal process that exists in several common law jurisdictions, including the United States and the United Kingdom. It is used for several purposes – to protect parties to Court proceedings from meritless legal arguments or as a sanction for procedural errors like lateness. The deficient argument is literally deleted from the case. In some cases one side’s entire filings can be deleted and they automatically lose. This saves the other side the costs and hassle of having to deal with a full trial.
In the UK, the Courts were bothered for years by litigants who wasted lots of time and the law now recognises that delays and missed hearings cost not only the parties to the case money, but also other court users. A strike out can be permanent (called ‘with prejudice’ in the United States), or a party may be able to re-file their papers once they have fixed the errors (called ‘without prejudice’ in the United States).
There is a similar procedure called, ‘summary judgement’, in which a judgement on a matter may be determined without a full hearing.
The Witchfinder has not yet been able to find out the grounds for the strike out motion, but speculates there are two potential reasons. The first is simply that Quinn, a party who plainly has significant legal support, was late. Lateness in Court proceedings can be serious – in the United Kingdom entire cases can be completely struck out without notice for lateness.
However, there is another much more interesting possibility. In a legal update on 22/09/2015, posted on Reddit (archive here), Gjoni talked about the dismissal of Quinn’s attempt to obtain a second restraining order against him in the state of Washington.
The attempt by Quinn surprised your author because both UK and US law have a concept called, res judicata. Res judicata is latin for ‘already judged’. It simply means that once a court case has been judged, the parties can appeal, file motions to set aside, whatever but what they cannot do is start the same court case all over again. This is to save both the court and the parties money and prevent people misusing the court system.
Put another way res judicata means parties to a case can go up to the appellate courts and back down to the trial court but they are not usually allowed to go sideways to another court entirely.
Res judicata applies to whole cases, or even to parts of cases like distinct issues of fact that have already been decided between the parties. So if, (say) a court in Washington decides that Gjoni and Quinn’s relationship ended on a particular date in 2014, Quinn cannot go to some other court and proffer a different date.
Of particular note, in his update, Eron said –
“In dismissing on jurisdictional grounds, she held that my online speech which the plaintiff entered into evidence did not constitute threats or harassment, and so did not rise to the level required to establish jurisdiction.”
If this is the case, and the Washington judge did indeed find that Gjoni’s speech did not meet the criteria for threats or harassment then the decision is likely to bind Quinn in any future case between she and Gjoni where this is an issue. Including the Massachusetts case.
The court website shows that on the same day as filing to strike, Gjoni filed a bunch of court documents and asked the court to take ‘judicial notice’, which suggests that the motion to strike may well relate to the Washington judgement.
Of course this is only speculation – the parties have yet to reveal the full arguments – but the court drama continues to play out and it would be amusing in the extreme if Quinn’s Washington adventure acted to destroy her Massachusetts case.