If there’s any single person whose conduct could single-handedly make me disavow the First Amendment, it would be Andrew Anglin. a neo-Nazi whose website, the Daily Stormer, may have been the worst cesspool possible. I say “may” only because there can always be worse, though it’s hard to imagine. It wasn’t just the content, which was pretty much what you would expect of a neo-Nazi website, but Anglin’s use of it to direct his ilk to attack others in real life.
So he was sued. Three times. And all three plaintiffs who sued him won and obtained huge judgments.
The first African-American female student body president of American University won a $725,000 judgment on Friday in a lawsuit against Andrew Anglin, the publisher of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer who incited a racist “troll storm” targeting her, a judge ruled.
This was the third judgment in the past three months against Mr. Anglin. In a separate case on Thursday, a $14 million judgment was rendered against him. He owes a total of nearly $20 million to three people…
So justice prevailed? Not exactly.
…but they have yet to see a cent in payments.
There could be billions in awards against Anglin, but you can’t get blood from a rock. Anglin is what we delightfully call judgment-proof, a status leaving his plaintiffs in the winner’s circle with no champagne.
“Too often hate crime victims don’t get justice, but that didn’t happen here,” she said on Saturday, adding that the ruling “should make it incredibly difficult for The Daily Stormer to carry on business as usual.”
This was a civil action, not a criminal one, and what the Times neglects to mention is that judgment was obtained on default. Anglin disappeared and failed to defend. The plaintiffs didn’t even get the satisfaction of examining him, watching his face as a judge or jury uttered sums of money with far more zeroes than he would ever see in his pathetic life. Is that justice?
While it’s true that it should make it hard for Anglin and the Daily Stormer to continue, even that’s hardly assured. Wherever Anglin is, he need only find an amenable off-shore host to continue spewing his vile content. It’s unclear that there is any entity willing to host Anglin, but it’s also unclear that there isn’t.
In the case of one of the plaintiffs, Taylor Dumpson, the action was brought under Title VI based on the impairment of her educational opportunity.
Taylor Dumpson, the first black woman to serve as student government president at AU, in 2017 sued Andrew Anglin, the founder and editor of the Daily Stormer, alleging he initiated a racist “troll storm” against her that made her fear for her life and disrupted her ability to pursue her education.
Friday’s decision, in the US District Court for the District of Columbia, may mark the first time a court has ruled that racist online trolling activity can interfere with one’s equal access to a public accommodation, according to Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented Ms Dumpson.
Not only was this a legally sound use of the Civil Rights Law, but it provided for the award of attorneys fees.
“We think that this essentially opens up a new avenue to attack the dangerous activities of white supremacists in our country,” Clarke said in an interview. “I would expect that other litigators will be able to use the ruling in this case to seek justice on behalf of other victims of hate crimes.”
Unfortunately, this may be a bit of an overstatement of the outcome. While neither a district court judgment nor a default judgment are precedent, it certainly makes it easier to go down the road when someone has already successfully done so. Yet, until it’s challenged and the challenge is overcome, the significance is a bit murky.
More to the point, however, is the reference to crimes again. While the individuals who acted to harm Dumpson, and there should be no doubt that the harms she endured were real and horrific, may have committed crimes, that doesn’t make Anglin’s call to action criminal. As this was civil, calling his conduct a “hate crime” doesn’t make it so.
What is reflected by these huge judgments against Anglin is a well-known gap in the legal system, that a person without assets can basically get away with anything, not because he deserves to but because the relief available is limited. The numbers of the award are big, but they exist only on paper. If Anglin’s pockets are empty, the judgments will look great on the wall, framed, but won’t get the plaintiffs a subway ride.
The judgment-proof defendant is nothing new in law. It’s no different here than where you’re t-boned by an unemployed driver without insurance. People who have suffered terrible damages at the hands of people without a pot to piss in end up with a paper judgment and no satisfaction. It’s hardly “justice,” but there is little the system can do about it. There’s no magic by which a judgment debt can be paid when the debtor has squat. Should Anglin surface, and should he somehow come into money, the judgment can be executed then, with some conditions, but what are the chances?
However, cases like Anglin’s will generate more heat than those of the family maimed by the uninsured driver, and there may well be calls to change the law so that the plaintiffs, the victims of Anglin’s calls to action, should have a more meaningful remedy against this mutt. As bad as Anglin is (and he is), and as inadequate as the system may be for those he harmed, the problem of unpaid judgments has always been a part of the system. It’s not an Anglin problem, or a free speech problem, but the fact that the system cannot, and never will, be capable of remedying every ill man can conceive.