Rogers filed suit in Cobb Superior Court on May 30 alleging the attorneys for his former housekeeper, Mye Brindle, attempted to extort him by proposing he settle a sexual harassment suit brought by Brindle or risk the sexual encounters he had with her becoming public.
On Wednesday, Cobb Superior Court Judge Robert Leonard heard arguments from Rogers’ attorney regarding the complaint of extortion and motions to dismiss the complaint from attorneys representing Brindle’s attorneys. After the attorneys made their arguments, Leonard asked both sides for additional briefs to help answer questions he had regarding the arguments.
Attorneys will submit those briefs within the next few weeks, at which time Judge Leonard can either issue a judgment to dismiss the case, to move forward with the complaint or call for an additional hearing.
The saga between Rogers and Brindle began in June 2012, when Brindle recorded video of herself and Rogers engaging in sexual activities at Rogers’ Buckhead home to provide evidence of what she alleges was sexual harassment.
According to Rogers’ attorney, William Hill Jr. of the Polsinelli PC law firm in Atlanta, Brindle recorded the video without his knowledge and her attorneys — David Cohen, John Butters and Hylton Dupree Jr. — helped her create the video by equipping her with “an illegal eavesdropping device,” Hill added.
After learning about the recording during pre-trial mediation, Rogers’ attorneys filed suit in Cobb County alleging invasion of privacy. Brindle countersued alleging sexual harassment.
During pre-trial procedures in Cobb Superior Court in June 2013, Judge Leonard ruled certain questions may be asked during discovery — a fact-finding period before a hearing. The ruling was upheld by an appellate court and may now be taken up by the Supreme Court of Georgia.
John Floyd, who represented Cohen and Butters on Wednesday, said a petition to the Georgia Supreme Court to hear the case will be filed soon.
After the state Supreme Court makes a decision — or decides not to hear the case — the sexual harassment and invasion of privacy suit can proceed to the discovery phase.
A separate legal case
During his arguments Wednesday, Hill, the attorney for the Waffle House chairman, alleged Brindle’s attorneys sent the chairman an “extortion letter” during mediation proceedings demanding a settlement in the sexual harassment case or else the lawsuit would proceed and cause him personal and financial trouble. As a result, Rogers sued Brindle’s three attorneys for invasion of privacy, infliction of emotional distress and conspiracy, among other charges.
In court Wednesday, Floyd argued the lawyers could not be sued because of a state law designed to prevent “strategic litigation against public participation,” also known as the anti-SLAPP statute. In short, the statute seeks to prevent someone from censoring another person by burdening them with the cost of going to court.
Floyd said his clients’ acted as legal representatives of Brindle by sending the demand letter during mediation. Because they were attempting to help her “petition the government for a redress of grievances,” a right given to Brindle by the U.S. and Georgia constitutions, he said their actions cannot form the basis of a lawsuit.
Attorney Tom Cauthorn represented Dupree on Wednesday. Cauthorn also argued Rogers’ complaint should be dismissed and used many of the same arguments as Floyd. However, he also argued Dupree wasn’t involved in the mediation and should not be included in the extortion suit.
Hill argued the anti-SLAPP law does not apply to the defendants’ actions because while speech and petitioning the government for redress is protected, extortion is not, saying the letter Rogers received was not a “run-of-the-mill demand letter.” Even in the context of helping a client, lawyers are not permitted to break the law, he added.
Hill later held up a card lawyers receive after being admitted to the state bar and said the defendants were trying to hide behind their own cards.
If Leonard decides to uphold the complaint and denies the motions to dismiss, he implied he would not move forward to discovery in this case until the matter in the underlying case between Rogers and Brindle is settled by the state Supreme Court.