Attorney General-Elect J.B. Van Hollen is trying to abandon a defamation action he filed on the eve of the election. But some of those he sued aren't willing to go along.
"The case cannot be dismissed so cavalierly and without consequence," attorney Bob Dreps, representing the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, wrote late last week in a letter to the judge. "GWPF will consent to the dismissal of the case with prejudice and with costs... . GWPF does not consent under any other circumstances."
On Nov. 6, one day before his razor-thin win, Van Hollen sued the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund and Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk. He claimed ads run by both criticizing his failure to seek bail revocation for a sexual predator who went on to kill a 16-year-old girl were defamatory.
Falk's campaign joked that this action, filed in Bayfield County, signaled that Van Hollen had rescinded his opposition to frivolous lawsuits. She didn't even bother to formally respond.
The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund did, filing motions to change venue and dismiss, saying its ad did not air in Bayfield County and a defamation claim was not winnable since, among other reasons, "the advertisement is true." Indeed, it said, Van Hollen's complaint "does not allege that GWPF made a false statement of fact."
On Dec. 6 attorney Michael Crooks, representing Van Hollen, sent a letter asking the judge to dismiss the case: "Now that the election is over, he needs to focus his attention on the business of the state of Wisconsin and its citizens, and cannot be distracted by a time-consuming, private litigation."
While Falk readily accepted a similar dismissal offer, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund is holding out for statutory costs. Crooks tells Isthmus he considers this "ridiculous" and argues, in a Dec. 19 letter, that any allowable costs would be nominal.
Dreps, in his response letter, says his client is entitled to $500 of its presumably much higher attorney fees, plus incidental expenses. He asks that these be awarded or that the judge schedule a "brief telephone hearing to resolve these issues."
Van Hollen will be sworn in as attorney general next week.