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Zimmerman v. Bulldog case going to court today

Thursday, December 18, 2014 by Jo Clifton

Attorneys for District 6 Council Member-elect Don Zimmerman and Austin Bulldog publisher Ken Martin will face off in a Travis County district court this morning over a lawsuit Zimmerman filed related to a Bulldog story that outlined court proceedings in which Zimmerman relinquished managing conservatorship of his daughter.

Zimmerman claims in the lawsuit that Martin and the Bulldog committed libel against him when it reported allegations of abuse that were detailed in court records.

According to a motion to dismiss filed by Martin’s attorney, Peter Kennedy of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody, “This frivolous lawsuit was filed to intimidate an investigative reporter — exactly the type of abuse that the Texas Legislature sought to prevent and remedy when it enacted the Texas Citizens Participation Act.” The legislation is also known is an anti-SLAPP law.

The Bulldog reported the custody proceedings under a headline indicating that “Zimmerman lost custody.” The motion to dismiss states, “This lawsuit quibbles about the article’s wording, but utterly fails on each point … Zimmerman ‘lost custody’ under both the common and technical legal meanings of the word. The direct cause of him losing custody was his daughter’s outcry of abuse, which was corroborated by her stepfather’s testimony and her doctor’s records. In fact, the court records reflect that Zimmerman agreed, and the court found, that he had a history of mental and physical abuse of his daughter, and that it was in her best interest that she have no contact with him at all.”

In concluding his motion, Martin’s attorney asks for a final judgment dismissing Zimmerman’s claims and awarding court costs, reasonable attorneys fees and other expenses incurred in defending the lawsuit, as well as “additional sanctions sufficient to deter the plaintiff from bringing similar actions in the future.”

Zimmerman’s attorney, Stephen Casey, also demanded that the Austin Monitor retract a Whisper concerning the Bulldog story. Even though the Monitor did not believe the Whisper was defamatory, it was removed from the site. A Monitor story explained the situation.

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