Sawant on verge of losing defamation lawsuit — by default (UPDATED)

(update below – 9/18/17)

Last month the two SPD officers who shot Che Taylor last year sued Council member Kshama Sawant for defamation. This morning, their lawyers filed a motion claiming that Sawant has missed the deadline to respond and thus should lose the case by default.

Sawant and her attorney had until two days ago, September 13th, to respond with either a “notice of appearance” by her attorney or a formal response to the lawsuit. They missed that deadline, and in fact today have still not filed either document.

The motion for default filed today notes that they spoke with Sawant’s attorney on September 12th, and he seemed unwilling to file a notice of appearance, but the officers’ attorney made it clear that he needed to by the deadline.

By the letter of the law, this seems pretty decisive. Sawant might have to claim that her attorney is incompetent in order to wiggle out of it.

UPDATED 9/15/17  8:30pm: this afternoon Sawant’s attorney, Dmitri Iglitzin, filed a Notice of Appearance on her behalf. A few hours later, he posted an updated version with this bit (in bold) added in:

Please take notice that Dmitri Iglitzin, of the firm Schwerin Campbell Barnard Iglitzin & Lavitt, LLP, without waiving any objections as to the sufficiency of service of process or jurisdiction of this Court, hereby enters his appearance for Defendant Kshama Sawant in the above-captioned matter.

It looks like he rushed out a Notice of Appearance after the officers filed their Motion for Default this morning, and then upon further consideration decided he wanted to explicitly reserve the right to question whether the court has jurisdiction to hear the case.

According to his bio, Iglitzin specializes in representing unions in labor law disputes, not tort law (such as defamation cases). This would be out of his wheelhouse, so he and Sawant are probably scrambling to find a more appropriate attorney to represent her in this case.

A staff member in Sawant’s City Council office called me this afternoon and told me that the judge had denied the Motion for Default “on the merits.”  As of Friday evening, no such court order has been published in the King County Superior Court records system. I’ll update this post again if such an order is issued.

UPDATE 9-18-17Here is the order denying the motion for default. The judge denied it because apparently the plaintiff had stated that an answer wasn’t due until 9/29.  The motion was denied without prejudice, meaning that if Sawan’t legal team doesn’t respond by that date the motion can be re-filed.