Las Vegas Sun

April 14, 2024

Small Las Vegas newspaper wins appeal tied to defamation suit

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled that a small weekly newspaper in Las Vegas serving the Chinese community should have a chance to recover its cost and fees in successfully winning a freedom of speech suit.

The Southern Nevada Chinese Weekly was sued by the Chinese American Chamber of Commerce of Nevada and its president, Travis Lu, for allegedly publishing defamatory stories about the chamber.

After a three-day trial, the newspaper won. But District Judge Linda Marie Bell declined to award $175,000 to the newspaper for money spent for attorney fees and costs.

The Supreme Court said Bell failed to analyze the adequacy of the request. The court said, “In not conducting the review of the costs documentation as provided in the law, the district court abused its discretion.”

The case now returns to Judge Bell.

The newspaper in 2002 ran stories questioning if there were improprieties in the Miss Chinatown Las Vegas Beauty Pageant and the crowning of the winner. It said it sought comments from the chamber, which backed the pageant, but none were issued to the newspaper.

The newspaper in 2003 then wrote stories questioning whether the chamber was a nonprofit organization, as it was billed, or whether it was operating as a business without a business license.

The chamber and Lu filed suit in 2003 claiming defamation, intentional interference with a prospective business advantage, trade libel and injurious falsehood.

According to court documents, the district court jury found the Chamber of Commerce had failed to establish the stories were defamatory.

The newspaper and its owners, Anthony Lu and Judy Chan Moman, said the suit was brought to harass the newspaper, which claimed it should recover fees and costs “necessarily incurred in more than a five-year defense of their First Amendment rights.”

The newspaper said it was the prevailing party and noted the chamber hasn't appealed the verdict.

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