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What Did State Supreme Court Decide on Defamation Suit Against Assemblymember Soria?
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By David Taub, Senior Reporter
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 3, 2024

The California Supreme Court rejects an appeal from Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria (left), returning Fresno City Councilmember Mike Karbassi's defamation lawsuit to a Fresno court. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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The California Supreme Court denied an appeal from Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, who is defending herself from a defamation lawsuit by a Fresno city councilmember.

This means councilmember Mike Karbassi’s litigation against Soria will resume in a Fresno courtroom.

Soria allegedly disparaged Mike Karbassi with a mailer during the 2022 campaign. Both were on the city council at the time and running for the same Assembly seat. Soria eventually won the seat and is serving her first term. Karbassi did not advance beyond the June 2022 primary.

Before the June 2022 primary, Soria sent a controversial mailer to voters, implying that Karbassi had a criminal record. However, it was a Karbassi consultant who had problems with the law — a fact found only on the other side of the flyer.

Karbassi expressed relief upon hearing the Supreme Court’s decision from GV Wire.

“Since the very beginning, I’ve been confident in the case we’ve presented at every level of our judicial system,” Karbassi said. “I’m incredibly appreciative that the Supreme Court agreed with the Appellate Court’s thoughtful ruling and will allow us to proceed and make our case to a jury. I look forward to that opportunity.”

Messages to Soria’s attorneys were not returned. Soria declined to answer questions in person at an event on Friday.

Soria Appealed and Lost

Karbassi sued for defamation. Soria filed an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss, which was granted by a Fresno County Superior Court judge. The legal maneuver protects members of the public — including elected officials — so they can make statements, such as on political flyers.

Karbassi appealed to the Fresno-based Fifth District Court of Appeal, which reversed the lower court ruling on Jan. 30. The court sided with Karbassi, agreeing that Soria’s flyer was not clear that she was referring to someone else with the criminal charge allegations.

Soria asked for a rehearing, which was denied. She appealed to the state Supreme Court, which announced on Wednesday that it declined to hear her appeal.

No court has determined if Soria defamed Karbassi with the flyer. Because both are public figures, Karbassi would have to prove malice — that Soria knowingly lied about him in the flyer with reckless disregard for the truth.

In court filings, Soria’s attorneys wrote they are considering a counter lawsuit.

The case resumes in Fresno County Superior Court in front of Commissioner Daniel Brickey. A case management conference is scheduled for Aug. 15.

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David Taub,
Senior Reporter
Curiosity drives David Taub. The award-winning journalist might be shy, but feels mighty with a recorder in his hand. He doesn't see it his job to "hold public officials accountable," but does see it to provide readers (and voters) the information needed to make intelligent choices. Taub has been honored with several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. He's just happy to have his stories read. Joining GV Wire in 2016, Taub covers politics, government and elections, mainly in the Fresno/Clovis area. He also writes columns about local eateries (Appetite for Fresno), pro wrestling (Off the Bottom Rope), and media (Media Man). Prior to joining the online news source, Taub worked as a radio producer for KMJ and PowerTalk 96.7 in Fresno. He also worked as an assignment editor for KCOY-TV in Santa Maria, California, and KSEE-TV in Fresno. He has also worked behind the scenes for several sports broadcasts, including the NCAA basketball tournament, and the Super Bowl. When not spending time with his family, Taub loves to officially score Fresno Grizzlies games. Growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Taub is a die-hard Giants and 49ers fan. He graduated from the University of Michigan with dual degrees in communications and political science. Go Blue! You can contact David at 559-492-4037 or at Send an Email

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