Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Tentative Ruling Denies Fresno Trustee's Bid to Dismiss Coach's Defamation Suit
gvw_nancy_price
By Nancy Price, Multimedia Journalist
Published 1 year ago on
November 17, 2022

Share

Update Thursday: Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan heard arguments from attorneys about whether Bullard Coach Don Arax’s defamation lawsuit should be dismissed under anti-SLAPP laws and she would consider them before issuing her final ruling.

In her tentative ruling this week, Kapetan found that there was sufficient evidence of alleged defamation for the case to continue and insufficient evidence that Arax’s suit was intended to stifle public discussion or criticism on an issue of great community interest.

Attorneys for the defendants, Fresno Unified Trustee Keshia Thomas and the school district, presented arguments during Thursday afternoon’s half-hour court hearing on whether Thomas was acting in her capacity as a trustee when she said Arax had used a racial slur in front of her son. In addition, Kapetan asked Thomas’ attorney to explain why Arax, as a high school football coach, should be considered a limited public figure.

Kapetan did not indicate in court when she expects to issue her ruling.

Arax was in the courtroom, accompanied by his sister, former Bullard Area Trustee Michelle Asadoorian. Thomas was not present.

——————–

A Fresno County Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling denying motions by Fresno Unified Trustee Keshia Thomas and the school district to dismiss a defamation lawsuit brought against them by Bullard football coach Don Arax.

The defendants had sought the dismissal through anti-SLAPP motions. SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” and such suits are filed in an attempt to mute public criticism and intimidate critics and the news media.

In her tentative ruling, Judge Kristi Culver Kapetan found that Arax’s civil complaint contains “many alleged instances of defamatory statements” that Thomas made during a May 16 appearance on GV Wire’s “Unfiltered” public affairs program and in a GV Wire story, alleging that Arax had used a racial slur in front of one of her sons.

At the time, the high school and district were dealing with the fallout from a social media post that pictured a student wearing what appeared to be a KKK hood in the school’s weight room. The post sparked widespread community outrage and student walkouts.

In the tentative ruling, Kapetan found that Arax had not provided evidence that Thomas’ comments in a follow-up story by GV Wire “constitute actionable defamation.” In the article, Arax called Thomas a liar and Thomas responded that she was not backing down from her accusation.

Was Trustee Acting in Her Official Capacity?

The tentative ruling found that attorneys for Thomas and the school district are disagreeing as to whether Thomas was acting in her official capacity as a School Board member when she accused Arax of using the racial slur. Such speech would be privileged as “official duty.” But while Thomas says she was speaking as a trustee, attorneys for the school district contend she wasn’t. Kapetan said neither defendant had submitted sufficient evidence to determine the matter.

The tentative ruling also found that Arax is not a “limited public figure” who would be required to show actual malice in addition to defamation to collect damages.

The lawsuit is scheduled for a hearing at 3:27 p.m. Thursday.

Tentative Ruling

DON'T MISS

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

DON'T MISS

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

DON'T MISS

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

DON'T MISS

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

DON'T MISS

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

DON'T MISS

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

DON'T MISS

Acquisition of Historic Fresno Real Estate Brand Creates Area’s Largest Brokerage

DON'T MISS

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

DON'T MISS

It’s ‘Signing Day’ for These Clovis Unified Youngsters

DON'T MISS

Clovis Armed Robbery and Pursuit Result in 3 Arrests, 1 Suspect Still at Large

UP NEXT

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

UP NEXT

It’s ‘Signing Day’ for These Clovis Unified Youngsters

UP NEXT

Citing Safety, USC Cancels Speech by Valedictorian Who Has Publicly Supported Palestinians

UP NEXT

Career Technical Ed, Pre-K Could Be Hardest Hit in Budget Cuts

UP NEXT

Teacher Appreciation Week Surprises That Educators Will Love

UP NEXT

16 Clovis Students Rewarded With Scholarships for Their Resilience

UP NEXT

Community Leaders Call for Transparency in Fresno Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Harvard Again Requiring Standardized Test Scores for Those Seeking Admission

UP NEXT

Bob Nelson Breaks Silence on Fresno Unified Superintendent Search

UP NEXT

Half of Americans Say Public K-12 Education is Going the Wrong Direction: Poll

Nancy Price,
Multimedia Journalist
Nancy Price is a multimedia journalist for GV Wire. A longtime reporter and editor who has worked for newspapers in California, Florida, Alaska, Illinois and Kansas, Nancy joined GV Wire in July 2019. She previously worked as an assistant metro editor for 13 years at The Fresno Bee. Nancy earned her bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. Her hobbies include singing with the Fresno Master Chorale and volunteering with Fresno Filmworks. You can reach Nancy at 559-492-4087 or Send an Email

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

Local Education /

4 hours ago

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

5 hours ago

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

5 hours ago

Acquisition of Historic Fresno Real Estate Brand Creates Area’s Largest Brokerage

Breaking News /

5 hours ago

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

5 hours ago

It’s ‘Signing Day’ for These Clovis Unified Youngsters

Local Education /

5 hours ago

Clovis Armed Robbery and Pursuit Result in 3 Arrests, 1 Suspect Still at Large

6 hours ago

Charges Against Trump and Jan. 6 Rioters at Stake as Supreme Court Hears Debate Over Obstruction Law

6 hours ago

Fresno Fire and Police Ramp up Probe Into Fires at Cemeteries

6 hours ago

New Recruiting Programs Put Army, Air Force on Track to Meet Enlistment Goals. Navy Will Fall Short

6 hours ago

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

A proposal to levy a fixed charge on customers of California’s big investor-owned utilities will harm low-income households, further l...

2 hours ago

2 hours ago

Coalition: CA Lawmakers Need to Roll Back Proposed ‘Utility Tax’

4 hours ago

CA’s High Construction Costs Limit Housing. A Supreme Court Decision Might Help

Local Education /
4 hours ago

Now’s the Time to Register for FUSD’s Free Preschool and T-K

Local Education /
4 hours ago

‘Hopeville’ Literacy Documentary Showing Tonight at Roosevelt High

5 hours ago

Michigan Faces Probation for Football Recruiting Violations; Case vs. Jim Harbaugh Pending

5 hours ago

What Winnie the Pooh and Mickey Mouse Can Tell Us About the Public Domain and Remix Culture

Breaking News /
5 hours ago

Acquisition of Historic Fresno Real Estate Brand Creates Area’s Largest Brokerage

5 hours ago

Wall Street’s Mixed Trading Day

MENU

CONNECT WITH US

Search

Send this to a friend