Carlsen and Chess.com seek dismissal of lawsuit

by ChessBase
12/3/2022 – After the last news announcing Hans Niemann's lawsuit against Magnus Carlsen, Chess.com and more to the tune of $100 million each, there have been developments such as the judge who was assigned the case recusing himself, as well as the latest in which the parties cited now seek a dismissal.

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The first news regarding the lawsuit itself came on November 23rd when the judge assigned to the case, District Judge Ronnie L. White, recused himself from the case citing 28 U.S.Code § 455.

The US Code he refers to is one in which a judge or magistrate may be removed from a case if their impartiality is in question. It most often is in reference to a conflict of interest such as financial interests in the case (a shareholder of a company for example), or other.

(a) Any justice, judge, or magistrate judge of the United States shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.

It was then re-assigned to Her Honor Audrey G. Fleissig.

On December 2, the legal counsel of the plaintiffs, notably Magnus Carlsen, Chess.com, Danny Rensch, and Hikaru Nakamura filed a 25-page memorandum seeking a summary dismissal with prejudice of the lawsuit, citing irreconcilable flaws such as the inability to properly prove a conspiracy among the plaintiffs. 

It is so plainly without merit that it could have been brought only as a public relations stunt,” lawyers for Chess.com stated in the filing. 

Carlsen’s lawyers added, “After years of trying to curate a reputation as the bad boy of chess, Plaintiff Hans Niemann wants to cash in by blaming others for the fallout from his own admitted misconduct.

While it seems unlikely a dismissal will take place, this sort of maneuvering is standard and was to be expected.

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Aighearach Aighearach 12/9/2022 05:46
@WildKid:

That's what "discovery" is for; both sides have to share with each other all relevant documents, which includes their communications about the matter. There is more than a hunch; there is implication. Enough implication to get the case to discovery.

Just based on Nakamura's youtube posts, I think it is clear that are communications between him and chess.com about the subject. Their biggest problem might be this: What reason do they have to falsely accuse Hans? Is there any reason other than Magnus' financial interest, ie, wanting to remove him as a competitor? Since they have no rational reason to believe there was cheating, they don't really have anything like "protecting the integrity of the sport" to lean on. So why? Their financial interests is going end up being the only explanation on the table, which means that any communication at all about the subject will tend to become a conspiracy.
WildKid WildKid 12/6/2022 10:28
There's obviously a prima facie case for defamation since the defendants have all made defamatory statements (whether they are true or not is a question for trial). Conspiracy is less clear: just 'it makes sense, given their relationships, that they would conspire', on its own, doesn't seem to me enough to make a prima facie case for conspiracy. Plaintiff doesn't need to prove his case at this point but it has to be based on more than just a hunch.
shivasundar shivasundar 12/6/2022 07:29
"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely!"
A Alekhine A Alekhine 12/5/2022 08:40
I don't know the specific laws involved, but the facts clearly show that Carlsen has levied accusations of cheating against Niemann without proof or even any evidence; and that this action of Carlsen has harmed Niemann financially.

I'm pretty sure Niemann has a viable legal case against Carlsen on the basis of these facts. Let the lawyers sort out the specifics.
arzi arzi 12/5/2022 01:48
This garbage would have been quickly forgotten in people's minds if Carlsen had apologized for his hasty words the very next day.

"I`m sorry Hans, I was saddened by the loss, but now everything is ok. Life goes on and chess is a battle, you can't always win and sometimes you lose."

Maybe then chess.com and Nakamura would have thought about their actions and words first?
Aighearach Aighearach 12/5/2022 11:57
There is plenty that is public to get the case to trial. That means the next step will be discovery, where chess.com will have to turn over all their communications with Carlsen and Nakamura. You can never plead enough facts at the time of filing to win a conspiracy charge; the evidence will always come out in discovery. The problem for chess.com is that they were successful in getting him banned from tournaments instantly. And they all have business relations to each other, and were all part of that public effort.

The problem in a lot of conspiracy cases is that the damage is theoretical, or otherwise unclear, speculative, or the loss is only a loss a small probability outcome. Here, existing financial relationships were altered, and there is no known or even speculated reason other than the alleged conspiracy to harm Niemann for him to have been dropped from tournaments. The only reason for tournaments to comply is fear that they would lose Carlsen as a competitor; perhaps even one with a scheduling conflict that would cause other players to also switch events. It could ruin a promoter.
BKnight2003 BKnight2003 12/4/2022 03:36
The first judge wasn't supposed to tell why there was a conflict of interest, for him not take the case?
siciliov siciliov 12/4/2022 03:01
"this sort of maneuvering is standard and was to be expected"... step by step going down... We're witnessing the rise and fall of Magnus...
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/3/2022 01:17
4. Tortious interference with contract and business expectancies

chess.com obviously committed this act when it excluded Niemann from a tournament because of the scandal. If Carlsen, Nakamura and chess.com conspired (which seems to be the case, but I of course do not know whether it is actually the case), then all defendants committed this. If they were not communicating with chess.com, then only chess.com is guilty in this.

5. Civil conspiracy

Niemann needs to prove this accusation in order to make it acceptable. If he cannot prove this claim, then Carlsen and Nakamura are innocent in point 4.

I would find it difficult to believe that chess.com and Carlsen were not conspiring against Niemann, there were quite a few "interesting coincidences", but, in order to blame Carlsen and chess.com for civil conspiracy, Niemann needs to factually prove this. As about Nakamura, his possible participation in such a perceived conspiracy also needs to be proven.

In short: I think the defendants are guilty in slander, chess.com is guilty in libel, while Carlsen and Nakamura may be innocent in the libel charge, I'm not sure whether point 3. holds any water and I do think that there was a civil conspiracy, but this is only an opinion, because it's also possible that the defendants were acting independently. Nevertheless, this will be difficult to prove and point 4. depends on point 5 as well, no wonder that the defendants attacked point 5.

I wonder what the result will be.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 12/3/2022 01:16
I'm not a judge nor a prosecutor nor a lawyer, but, according to my layman terms and applying logic to what we know so far, this is how I see the case.

There were five causes of action according to the lawsuit:

1. Slander

"the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person's reputation."

Ranging from insinuation up to open accusation, defendants have been making statements, suggesting that Niemann has cheated in his game with Carlsen. Carlsen himself said that Niemann was not even tense in their game and has beaten him with an ease only a few players would be able (excluding Niemann), strongly suggesting he was cheating.

I do not know how lawyers will decide the matter in the US, but, according to my opinion, if Carlsen did not know factually that Niemann has cheated against him at the time (!) of his statement, then he slandered him. Nakamura, chess.com has joined the campaign against Niemann.

2. Libel

"a published false statement that is damaging to a person's reputation; a written defamation."

This is written slander. Since Carlsen and Nakamura has spoken in videos, he may have committed only slander, while chess.com attacked him in writing. So, if the statement of chess.com was false or they did not know their statement factually to be true, then they have committed libel, whereas, if published videos also fit into the category of libel, then Nakamura also committed libel if he did not factually know that his statement is true at the time or his statement was false.

3. Violating the Sherman antitrust act

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjFhPu-tN37AhUxhP0HHSjZDPAQFnoECAkQAQ&url=https%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FSherman_Antitrust_Act&usg=AOvVaw0gyzXhg0cYr6iAcGJEiXt8

Since Niemann's prospects as a competitor were severely damaged by Carlsen, Niemann and especially chess.com, this might be true.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 12/3/2022 01:09
I've downloaded and skimmed the motions to dismiss and the memoranda in support. It does not appear that any of the defendants are challenging the jurisdictional basis for the case. They appear to be relying principally on CT's anti-Slapp law which is, IMO, a stretch. They're also making allegations, essentially, that Niemann can not prove his claims of defamation and conspiracy which is essentially a trial issue for a jury to decide. The core issue is whether or not plaintiff had pleaded facts sufficient to establish a prima facie case sufficient to go to trial before the trier of fact, to wit, the jury.

I'll reserve my opinion on the likelihood that the motions will succeed until I've read through the papers, but from skimming them, it seems that the defendants are blowing an awful lot of smoke. The case has also been reassigned to a judge who was appointed to the bench by President Obama. The judge is a former US Attorney.
ChessSpawnVermont ChessSpawnVermont 12/3/2022 12:28
Failure to prove a cause of action beyond a reasonable doubt in one's complaint is not grounds for dismissal. Failure to meet one's burden of proof is an issue for the jury to decide at trial.
mrstillwater mrstillwater 12/3/2022 11:35
@GeraldC No, but Magnus also didn't make the accusation in a lawsuit so it's completely irrelevant.
Gerald C Gerald C 12/3/2022 09:47
"The legal counsel of the plaintiffs filed a 25-page memorandum seeking a summary dismissal with prejudice of the lawsuit, citing irreconcilable flaws such as the inability to properly prove a conspiracy among the plaintiffs". A weird argument ! Did Magnus "properly prove" that Hans was cheating during their game ?
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