The art of the written legal argument is difficult to master. Some lawyers write to influence public policy while others attack every claim or defense set forth by their adversary. Then there are those esteemed attorneys who write to win by relating facts in a compelling way. Angela Stanton’s counsel clearly knows how to persuade.
On September 26, 2012, attorney and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star, Phaedra C. Parks lodged a defamation lawsuit against her ex-best friend, Angela Stanton, in the matter of Phaedra C. Parks v. Angela Stanton, 12-C-06313-53. In response, Stanton submitted a Motion For Summary Judgment on February 24, 2014. Defendant contends in her motion that the record contains no reasonable basis upon which Plaintiff may prevail on her claims. Stanton further moves the Court for an order awarding her reasonable attorney’s fees, and other sanctions deemed appropriate by the Court due to Plaintiff’s refusal to participate in good faith in the discovery process, and due to Plaintiff’s maintenance of a legal action that lacks a reasonable basis in law or fact.
The pre-trial remedy known as summary judgment can decide an issue or an entire case. It can be granted to resolve disputes involving legal interpretation, but not disputes regarding material facts. The legal standard imposed by most jurisdictions requires that in order for summary judgment to be granted by the court, the party moving for summary judgment must demonstrate that there are “no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Stanton maintains that Parks has neglected to raise a genuine issue of material fact, and as a result, judgment must be entered in favor of Stanton as to Plaintiff’s claim for defamation, and Parks’ Complaint must be dismissed with prejudice.
The legal scuffle here stems from Parks’ suit against the motivational speaker Angela Stanton when the latter gave an interview to Vibe magazine and wrote a book titled, “Lies of a Real Housewife: Tell the Truth and Shame the Devil,” in which she claimed Parks knew about her husband Apollo Nida’s illegal activities.
Parks was deposed once but refused to talk about her husband’s criminal activities while they were married and stonewalled attorneys who tried to uncover the truth. In an Order dated October 10, 2014, the Court found that Plaintiff has given “evasive or incomplete answers to certain questions posed by Defendant’s counsel.” A judge is forcing Parks to submit to a deposition and answer questions about her involvement in Nida’s crimes. Meanwhile, a summary judgment hearing is set for April 20, 2015.
Defendant argues on page 17 of her motion that “Parks must now play by the rules,” citing to the Georgia Civil Practice Act, which requires that “she submit herself to a deposition upon oral examination to be conducted by Defendant’s counsel.” A party to a lawsuit cannot refuse to engage in the discovery process in good faith. In ¶ 59 of Defendant’s motion, Stanton claims she has attempted to schedule Plaintiff’s deposition, via email, letter, phone conversations, and in-person conversations, on numerous occasions but Parks has refused to coordinate with Defendant to schedule her deposition.
In a letter dated February 5, 2014 from James Radford, Stanton’s lawyer, to Paul E. Andrews, Phaedra’s counsel, see Exhibit H of Defendant’s motion, Mr. Radford asserts,
“I have been trying for the past two months to schedule your client’s deposition in this case. I have proposed numerous potential dates, and have been promised by you numerous times to provide me with a mutually acceptable date. I have no choice but to unilaterally notice the deposition. So, please find attached the notice to take your client’s deposition on Monday, February 17, 2014, at the State Bar.”
Defendant alleges that Parks has not submitted any affidavits, nor has she introduced any other shred of documentary evidence supporting her claims. Defendant charges that Parks has refused to sit for her deposition, and a result, she has failed to produce even the most basic evidence to support her claims – that is, her own testimony!
The absurdity of the situation is obvious: The self-described “Super Sassy But Always Classy Atty” would not be subject to grueling questioning about her knowledge of Apollo Nida’s criminal activity if she had not commenced litigation in the first place.
For your reading pleasure, I have bulleted herein a “best of” list regarding the most captivating claims made by Stanton in her motion for summary judgment:
During the time that the Defendant and Plaintiff formed a close bond, Stanton’s boyfriend Justin Cody found that the two women were so close that he believed they were “romantically involved,” see ¶ 13.
In ¶ 14, it is alleged that sometime in 2001, Stanton and Parks began to engage in a criminal enterprise together. Their first criminal business consisted of using false checks to purchase electronics, jewelry, and other high-end items, see ¶ 16. The scheme continued, according to Defendant, in the following manner: Parks would provide Stanton with fraudulent business checks, as well as a list of desired items, including specific model numbers of electronics, that Stanton was to purchase with those checks, see ¶ 17. Stanton then went out and purchased all of the items on the list using those checks, and delivered the items to Parks, see ¶ 18.
As payment for her part in this criminal enterprise, Parks provided several fraudulent checks for Stanton to use to purchase whatever she desired, according to ¶ 19 of the motion.
Astoundingly, Parks and Stanton executed this check fraud scheme somewhere between thirty and fifty times in several states, see ¶ 21.
Parks was deeply involved in numerous criminal schemes in which Stanton was also involved between 2001 and 2004, see ¶ 54.
In 2001, a warrant for Stanton’s arrest was issued for using a fraudulent check in Clayton County. Following this warrant for check fraud, Parks suggested a wholly different criminal enterprise, and sometime in 2001 Parks introduced Stanton to Apollo Nida, see ¶ 23-24.
Parks and Nida engaged Stanton in a criminal scheme in which they facilitated and instructed her to procure a fake ID, using the alias “Tyra Evans,” and open a bank account at Bank of America with that fake identity, see ¶ 26.
During Stanton’s incarceration from March 2004 in to early 2005, Stanton’s sister-in-law, Regina Matthews, facilitated numerous three way calls between Stanton and Parks, see ¶ 46. Stanton characterized the tone of those conversations as being a chat between friends and business partners, not a conversation between an attorney and her client. During those phone calls, Parks and Stanton discussed “their business” together, and Parks inquired as to what Stanton had told the police before, during, and after her arrest, see ¶ 49-50.
Under ¶ 83, Defendant contends, “Plaintiff’s counsel has stated numerous times that Plaintiff does not intend to maintain the action against Stanton, but wishes to dismiss the Complaint.” Based on the fact Plaintiff filed a BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT and a RESPONSE TO MOTION FOR SANCTIONS on April 29, 2014 and February 17, 2015, respectively, I highly doubt it is Parks’ objective to dismiss the case.
Defendant contends on page 18 that Parks has displayed a clear disregard for the rules of the Court, and her “contempt for these rules are made even more egregious due to the fact that she is a duly licensed Georgia attorney and an officer of the Court.”
Stanton has everything to lose – in terms of her reputation and future business prospects – by admitting to and emphasizing her criminal conduct in this motion for summary judgment. Despite the fact she lays bare all her previous mistakes in significant detail, she is willing to do so in order to prove that Plaintiff’s defamation lawsuit is groundless.
Judge Carla E. Brown has no shortage of legal paperwork and evidence to comb through in determining the final outcome of this motion. Motion practice in this case has been robust, to say the least. Since the motion that is the subject of this blog was first filed on February 24, 2014, there have been a slew of additional filings, including a RESPONSE TO MOTION TO COMPEL; a RESPONSE TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; an AFFIDAVIT OF PHAEDRA PARKS; a BRIEF IN OPPOSITION TO MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT; and a MOTION FOR IMPOSITION OF SANCTIONS, to name a few.
In a defamation case, the defendant can only be held liable if the statement involved was false. A true statement does not meet the legal requirements for defamation. Stanton asserts on page 19 that there is no evidence in the record that her supposedly defamatory statements are false. Stanton argues that the statements she made in her book are true, regardless of how unfavorably they portray Parks.
“Not only does Stanton’s testimony fully support the truth of every statement made in her book and in her interviews, but Stanton has introduced the sworn statements of four additional witnesses who have corroborated the truth of her allegations,” notes Stanton on page 20 of the motion for summary judgment, referring to Justin Cody, Leonard Holland, Regina Matthews, and Lee Matthews.
Furthermore, before agreeing to publish Stanton’s book, Stanton maintains that Augustus Publishing did a “fact search” to verify that the facts in Stanton’s book were, in fact, true. According to Defendant’s motion, Augustus determined that, pursuant to their investigation, the facts of Stanton’s book were verifiably true.
While we cannot predict the future, we can make reasonable judgments about which way the Court is likely to rule. Here are a couple of questions I pose to AATT readers:
Are Parks’ actions with regard to this lawsuit abusive, in bad faith, and frivolous?
- Does Parks believe she is above the law?
- Should Parks’ conduct be sanctioned?
Is Parks more likely to withdraw her lawsuit with prejudice (in other words, the suit will be dismissed permanently and it cannot be brought back to court) or will she appear for a deposition to wholly address the allegations made in Stanton’s book?
I urge you to grab your gavel, join the conversation, and tell us whether you think the judge will rule in favor of Angela Stanton.