Lawyers for Phoebe Bridgers have criticised a deposition request from Chris Nelson in an ongoing lawsuit against Bridgers, calling it “nothing more than thinly veiled harassment.”
On Instagram in October 2020, Bridgers directed her followers to a thread by her friend Emily Bannon, which Nelson claimed was defamatory.
Nelson subsequently sued Bridgers for defamation and is seeking $3.8million (£2.8million) in damages. He claims Bridgers “intentionally used her high-profile public platform on Instagram to publish false and defamatory statements” about him “in order to destroy his reputation”.
In a sworn declaration filed on February 14, Bridgers responded, saying: “I believe that the statements I made in my Instagram story are true. My statements were made based on my personal knowledge, including statements I personally heard Mr. Nelson make.”
Nelson subsequently demanded the right to depose Bridgers, saying it was the only way to prove that the musician defamed him.
Now, Bridgers’ lawyers are claiming this request amounts to “harassment”.
Bridgers’ lawyer, Alan A. Greenberg, wrote in a court filing today (March 16): “Mr. Nelson’s amorphous request for discovery based on his attorney’s circular statement that it is necessary is nothing more than thinly veiled harassment.”
Last month, Bridgers sought to end the lawsuit, citing California’s anti-SLAPP law in a new court filing. The motion filed said that Nelson is enough of a public person that he must prove that Bridgers “acted with actual malice”.
“Ms. Bridgers has submitted a declaration affirming her subjective belief in the truth of her statements, so Mr. Nelson cannot meet his burden. The court therefore should grant this special motion to strike,” it stated.
Bridgers’ lawyers this week also added that ruling in Nelson’s favour would defeat the purpose of the anti-SLAPP law.
They said: “If plaintiffs could justify lifting the discovery stay based solely on their lack of available evidence to oppose an anti-SLAPP motion, that would enable those with the weakest claims to inflict the expense and delay of discovery on the defendants the legislature most intended to protect by providing a procedure for courts to dismiss at an early stage non-meritorious litigation meant to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights.”
A hearing in the case is due to take place later this month.
Nelson has already lost a separate defamation case against the musician, actress and director Noël Wells, where he alleged that Wells made “false” statements about him in correspondence with the band Big Thief and had caused him emotional distress.