SAN DIEGO — A California judge ordered U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa to pay his opponent in last year’s election more than $45,000 for legal expenses after the congressman sued his challenger for defamation over attack ads.
Issa, a San Diego-area Republican, filed a lawsuit in November claiming Democrat Doug Applegate’s television commercials hurt his reputation.
The judge in March said Issa did not prove his case. The judge also agreed with Applegate’s argument that he was exercising free speech rights with the ads and that the lawsuit was an attempt to silence criticism.
The judge has ordered Issa to reimburse Applegate, his campaign and campaign manager Robert Dempsey. According to the June decision, Issa must pay $42,500 in attorney fees and $2,842 in other legal costs the paid by the defendants incurred while fighting Issa’ lawsuit.
Issa’s attorney, Chuck Bell, told the Union-Tribune newspaper Tuesday (http://bit.ly/2wq6nko ) that he is appealing the decision disagrees with some of the judge’s rulings — including a determination that the ads based on newspaper articles were true.
The defendants initially asked the court to order Issa to give them $138,188 to pay their attorneys. But after Issa appealed in May, Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss said that some of Applegate’s lawyers’ work was excessive and that the court would not order full payment.
The television commercials aired in Orange and San Diego counties in advance of last year’s election. One of the spots used parts of an article from The New York Times headlined “A Businessman in Congress Helps his District and Himself” that Issa has disputed since it was published in August 2011.
Issa in his lawsuit complained that one of Applegate’s commercials had a line that did not appear in the original article that would cause people to falsely conclude that he used his official position to enrich himself.
“It basically implied that it was the speech of the newspapers, not that of the (Applegate) campaign’s design. And that’s where the statements were false and not privileged,” Bell said.
Strauss said Issa failed to prove Applegate’s claim was wrong, noting that the congressman’s wealth increased during his tenure in office.
Bell said that the court took an “overly broad” focus determining the truth of the ads.
Applegate is running against Issa in 2018, along with attorney Mike Levin and businessman Paul Kerr.
All of Issa’s opponents are Democrats. Issa was re-elected last year after defeating Applegate by 1,621 votes in the closest congressional race of 2016 in the U.S.