Texas attorney seeks to dismiss $100M defamation suit, defendant wants $1M in sanctions

By David Yates | Dec 4, 2018


Van Dyke  

EAST TEXAS – Earlier this year, Jason Lee Van Dyke made headlines when he brought a $100 million defamation lawsuit. Now, the attorney wants to dismiss the case because he “lacks the time and resources to continue litigating against a lunatic.”

Van Dyke, who was recently appointed as the new Proud Boys leader to pass bylaws for the group, filed suit against Thomas Retzlaff in March, claiming Retzlaff wrongfully labeled him a drug addict and a white nationalist.

In response, Retzlaff sought to dismiss the case pursuant to the Texas Citizens Participation Act – an anti-SLAPP statute designed to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to speak freely.

A federal judge denied Retzlaff’s motion in July, prompting an appeal that caught the attention of dozens of media organizations, including the American Society of News Editors.


Retzlaff  

The case, currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, could determine whether state anti-SLAPP statutes apply in federal court.

As previously reported, The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, along with 39 other news organizations and individuals, filed an amici curiae brief on Nov. 28, stating that they “have a strong interest in ensuring” that protections against frivolous suits intended to chill speech “apply in federal courts.”

A week later, Van Dyke filed a motion in the federal trial court on Dec. 3, stating he “wishes to dismiss this lawsuit because he is of the opinion that, short of locking Defendant in a prison cell for the rest of his natural life, there is nothing that this or any other court can do that will stop Defendant from continuing to harass Plaintiff.”

“There is no resolution of this case that will stop Defendant's behavior,” the motion states. “Defendant has already placed Plaintiff in dire financial straits and, simply put, Plaintiff lacks the time and resources to continue litigating against a lunatic.”

In spite of the motion to dismiss, Retzlaff told the Record he will continue to seek $1 million in sanctions against Van Dyke, plus recovery of attorney’s fees, which are already close to $75,000.

Court records show that on the same day the motion was filed, Van Dyke also sent a letter to Retzlaff’s attorney, Jeffrey Dorrell, stating that he was willing to drop the litigation so long as Retzlaff dropped the anti-SLAPP motion.

The letter further states if the proposal were acceptable, Van Dyke would waive briefing in the Fifth Circuit case, as the issue would now be moot.

Retzlaff declined the offer – his response littered with a number of expletives.

Case background

In his suit, Van Dyke asserts Retzlaff, who is reportedly a convicted felon and a “vexatious litigant,” falsely claimed that the former threatened his life and those of his family after he lost his job with the Victoria County District Attorney’s Office.

The suit asserts that Retzlaff “controls a Web site that has been responsible for tortious conduct against Van Dyke.”

Known as “BV Files,” the site purportedly contained statements alleging the plaintiff has a criminal record for abusing women and has committed professional misconduct against Retzlaff.

Retzlaff was additionally accused of doxing the address of Van Dyke’s now-former employer, Karlseng, LeBlanc & Rich, as well as emailing its principals with disparaging remarks about him.

KLR fired Van Dyke on March 27.

Van Dyke is representing himself.

Dorrell is an attorney for the Houston law firm Hanszen LaPorte.

Eastern District of Texas case No. 4:18-cv-00247

Appeals case No. 18-40710

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