Miss California Superior Court: Carrier Prejean Sues Pageant Over Termination

150px-CarriePrejeanByPhilKonstantinFormer Miss California Carrie Prejean, 22, has sued Miss California USA for libel, public disclosure of private facts, religious discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress stemming from the controversy over her position on gay marriage. She was stripped of her title earlier this year, but the officials insist it was due to her breaking her contract and failing to perform her duties as Miss California, including the missing of appearances. The complaint also named Miss California USA officials Keith Lewis and Shanna Moakler and publicist Roger Neal.

Her attorney Charles LiMandri insists that they will be able to show that Prejean was fired for her support of traditional marriage. Miss California USA officials Keith Lewis and Shanna Moakler, as well as publicist Roger Neal.

It alleges that Prejean suffered because of “libel, public disclosure of private facts, religious discrimination, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.” Prejean had previously threatened to sue Lewis over statements about Prejean. Lewis told Larry King in one interview that Prejean for fired for a variety of different problems and added “She came to us and said I’m not interested in your input; I’ll make my own decision what I’m going to do,” Lewis told CNN’s Larry King in June. “You know, when you have a contract, when you’re working for someone, you have a responsibility to follow through on what that requirement is. . . . she was not interesting in upholding the title or the responsibilities.” LiMandri responded with a letter warning Lewis about a defamation lawsuit.

He denied missing appearances and called the allegations a “complete and utter pretext” for her firing. He insisted that Lewis asked Prejean “to attend a gay documentary in Hollywood promoting same-sex marriage.” He noted “[i]t was not my client’s job, as Miss California, simply to help your client promote his personal or business interests as a Hollywood agent and producer, or gay activist.”

The best defense is to focus on the alleged contractual breach as opposed to Prejean’s views. However, Moakler’s attorney, Mel Avanzando, issued a statement blaming Prejean for the injury to her own reputation: “More importantly, as everyone who watched or read her public statements is well aware, Ms. Prejean’s unfortunate and bigoted statements are responsible for any public humiliation or damages to her reputation that she has claimed to have suffered.”

On its face, this complaint will have a difficult time with some of the claims. As a public figure, any comments about Prejean to be actionable would require her to satisfy the New York Times v. Sullivan standard of actual malice — showing a knowing falsity or reckless disregard of the truth. Certainly, if she did not miss any appearances other than the gay marriage event, there would be a claim since the impression was that she had failed to appear. The gay marriage event was not an appropriate demand if it were made a mandatory appearance given her personal religious views. However, saying that she was not serious about being a beauty queen seems like opinion and would not make for a particularly good basis for libel. Indeed, even missing appearances (if false) would not necessarily be that damaging to her reputation.

The disclosure of private facts is an interesting claim. This privacy tort has an exception for “newsworthy” stories — even if they include private facts. Prejean eagerly embraced celebrity status and publicly proclaimed her personal views on gay marriage, which makes this story newsworthy.

The discrimination based on religious views would require proof that she was actually fired for those views as opposed to a failure to fulfill her contractual requirements.

The real question is whether she has enough to make it to discovery and past an inevitable motion to dismiss. Once in discovery, she will be able to view internal memoranda and emails that might reinforce her claims of an effort to force her out due to her religious views.

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15 thoughts on “Miss California Superior Court: Carrier Prejean Sues Pageant Over Termination”

  1. Is Stupid a formally recognized religion and discrimination protected class now?

    In the words of Carson, “I did not know that.”

  2. Did Ms. Prejean divulge her Mountain-out-of-Molehill endeavors to beauty pageant officials when she registered as an entrant in the contest? Or did she keep silent and allow pageant judges and other scorekeepers to assume, as they may have been inclined to do, that the handiwork decorating her chest was home grown rather than imported from some outside entity?

    If, in fact, Ms. Carrie Prejean did not ‘fess up to her deception, is it not possible that the sue-EEs might become the sue-ERs in a litigation based on fraudulent actions by the then contestant?

    Could this not be accompanied by a class action suit for damages claimed by an assortment of disappointed and tragically betrayed males whose initial belief that they were viewing a heavenly body (so to speak), has ultimately visited upon them the traumatic effects of finding out they had been duped, and that this travesty may have rendered them forever disillusioned? Might this have damaged their trust in God related to His handiwork being more natural and (should I say?) “uplifting”, than the efforts of Ms. Prejean to present a man-made work as being a master copy? Is there no legal right of the Almighty to claim the patent on His original design? And should not the courts protect the world from the possibly unethical conduct of building mountains where God Himself has decreed molehills should reign?

    My heart (what little there is of it) goes out to the men of America who are suffering from this woman’s cruel betrayal.

  3. Professor; I was interested in your view on this case…

    The angle of religious discrimination is fascinating if it can be substantiated, despite whatever our own personal perspective on the topic or issue of gay marriage, if she can show she was discriminated against due to Her Personal belief as moronically as it was stated…”In my country…my family..” (Really what country is her country, not everyone elses country that is also American), clearly moronic…

    Still if she can show that she missed her appointments or appearances due to the ramifications caused by those she sites in her suit, due to her religious beliefs she may have a case…

    I am really glad to find you here at Stumble Upon it may be the premiere blog site here for me and my interests especially..

    We have spoken of my “old friend” Samuel Alito and what he did in NJ to me and those I loved, to cover for a drunken habitually drunken and crashing police officer from West Caldwell NJ while top Federal attorney if you recall for which he clearly should have not confirmed to our Supreme Court such as it is…

    Check out my site here I think you’ll find it of interest..and a good resource…

    http://tjtele.stumbleupon.com

    Also what is your perspective on the coming case in September in regard to the Hillary Clinton video or film and the expansion of the parameters of Corporate “Personhood..?”

  4. FFLEO, you managed to summarize this woman’s agenda and make me laugh within the space of a single sentence. Excellent!

  5. Former Federal LEO: Well, she’s already made mountains out of mole hills…

    (snickering)

    We have a winner!!!

  6. Thanks Gyges, there are many witty persons who post here, including you. Professor Turley’s witticisms are classic and along with other wry wits amongst us, those are a major draw for me to this blawg.

    Sometimes the best witticism is when you miss the person’s punch line and then you wake up in the middle of the night laughing, only to exclaim; oh, that is what he or she meant!

  7. FFLEO,

    That brought a tear to my eye. In all seriousness, I think you have the most subtle wit on the blog.

  8. well good for her,then. the legal system is available to her and she is going to use it to make herself look even more foolish that she already looks.
    if she thinks that too much of her personal life has been revealed, perhaps she might have chosen another profession other than beauty queen/celebrity.
    as we like to say in my family, let her knock herself out.

  9. Methinks that, much like fellow former beauty queen (more acurrately beauty lady-in-waiting as she didn’t actually win)/Governor Sarah Palin, Ms Prejean’s vocal public protests against her press coverage seem designed far more to keep her name in the press than to hold any masure of substance.

  10. Well this is California after all. Anything can happen, see the Toyota story. Does not the beauty pageant promote Heterosexual Sexual relationships? But the again, this is California and please define Queen!

    If it was part of her contract, then so be it, go to the debut. If not, then let thee Queen Reign. I can think of more pressing issues that need to be dealt with in California than this. But not that this is not important to a “Real” Queen. Sorry, I could not resist…..

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