Larry Klayman wins one against Judicial Watch

Last month we reported that legal crusader Larry Klayman’s “record in public interest cases is incalculably terrible,” so we feel bound to pass on that Tuesday Klayman scored a win against the group he founded, Judicial Watch. A federal jury in Florida awarded him $156,000 in compensatory damages and $25,000 in punative damages in a defamation case, according to Klayman.

There’s been bad blood and more than one lawsuit between the two ever since Klayman left Judicial Watch in 2003. A separate set of claims and counterclaims is pending in federal court in Washington.

“I’ve had trials and tribulations with them for 10 years. I feel good,” Klayman said. “It wasn’t the dollars, it’s the principle.”

A spokeswoman for Judicial Watch said by email Friday evening that she was seeking comment from the watchdog group’s officers.

The case centered on a false claim by a Judicial Watch employee in 2012 that Klayman had been convicted of not paying child support. Since Klayman is a public figure, he had to prove malice was behind the comment.

Klayman said a key piece of evidence at trial was a moment in a video deposition in which, according to Klayman’s interpretation, the Judicial Watch employee, referring to Klayman, silently mouthed the word “a——.”

“I played it for the jury three times,” Klayman said.


Portrait of Larry Klayman, one of Washington’s most dogged litigators. (Lucian Perkins).

The facts are complicated. In 2012, the Judicial Watch employee attended an event in California featuring then U.S. Senate candidate and birther activist Orly Taitz. The employee allegedly told Taitz of Klayman’s supposed conviction for not paying child support. Taitz posted the information on the Internet.

Turns out Klayman was indicted — not convicted — and he maintained that his temporary non-payment was a tactical legal maneuver to give him standing to appeal the child support. He later brought his payments up to date. (He has two teenage children and is divorced from their mother.)

Klayman said the comment hurt his reputation and caused him to be unable to raise money for his own lawsuit challenging the eligibility of President Obama to be on the ballot in Florida. Klayman is convinced that the birth certificate that Obama released is false.

Klayman is always juggling multiple cases, and the most important right now may be his challenge of the NSA’s program of collecting records of domestic telephone calls. A federal judge in Washington ruled preliminarily in Klayman’s favor in December, saying the program seemed to violate the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable search and seizure.

So many of Klayman’s cases are long shots that he ultimately loses a lot of them, but he says victory lies in the secrets he unearths in the process. Yet this time, for now — will Judicial Watch appeal? — he has etched one in the win column.

“I’m going to Disney World,” he quipped.

David Montgomery joined The Washington Post in 1993. He currently writes general features and profiles for the Sunday Magazine, Sunday Style and Sunday Arts, with a focus on the Latino community and Latino arts.
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