A judge in Florida agreed Thursday to transfer ex-prosecutor Linda Fairstein’s defamation lawsuit against Netflix to New York, finding that is a more appropriate venue for the case involving a TV series about the Central Park Five.
Fairstein filed the suit in March, alleging that she was wrongfully depicted in “When They See Us” as a racist prosecutor who orchestrated the railroading of five innocent teenagers. She also sued director Ava DuVernay and writer Attica Locke.
She filed the case in federal court in Florida, where she now lives, arguing that was a legitimate venue because the series was broadcast there. Florida also falls within the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which had previously barred the use of state anti-SLAPP laws, which protect defendants from frivolous libel suits.
Netflix nonetheless sought to invoke the California anti-SLAPP law to have the case dismissed. The streamer’s attorneys conceded that the 11th Circuit prohibited such a motion, but they argued that the case ought to be heard in New York, which allowed them. But in July, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York, joined the 11th Circuit in ruling that the California anti-SLAPP statute does not apply in federal court. (The statute is still valid in federal court in the 9th Circuit, which covers California.)
Netflix subsequently withdrew the motion, conceding that the motion would fare no better in New York than in Florida.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, U.S. District Judge John Badalamenti granted Netflix’s motion to transfer the case to New York. Badalamenti, whose court is in Fort Myers, Fla., found that it would be more convenient for the parties and witnesses to conduct the case in New York.
“The events depicted in the Series take place almost exclusively in New York,” the judge wrote. “Ms. Fairstein’s role in the Series centers on
her former career as a prosecutor in New York and her interactions with colleagues in New York. The trials of the Five took place in New York.”
Fairstein’s attorney, Andrew Miltenberg said he expects to prevail.
“Regardless of where this lawsuit is heard, we are extraordinarily confident in the merits of our case and the fact that Netflix, Ms. DuVernay and Ms. Locke engaged in defamation and a false and vicious portrayal of Ms. Fairstein,” Miltenberg said in a statement.