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Partnership with civil rights and legal advocacy organizations

Paul, Weiss has partnered closely with civil rights and legal advocacy organizations on several important cases seeking to hold hate groups accountable for their actions, and thereby deter potential participants from engaging in future violence and intimidation.

Sines v. Kessler

Sines v. Kessler

On behalf of nine plaintiffs, our lawyers and co-counsel sued the leadership of the violent white supremacist movement, winning a highly consequential verdict in 2021, and sending a powerful message against hate and violence. The case is widely viewed as a blueprint for civil litigation targeting such hate groups.

On the weekend of August 11-12, 2017, hundreds of white supremacists and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville, Virginia for the “Unite the Right” march and rally. This was not a peaceful protest but rather the culmination of a meticulously planned conspiracy to bring violence to Charlottesville after months of online organizing fueled by racism, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate. The events of that weekend have been seared into our nation’s collective memory: menacing hordes of tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists chanting “Jews will not replace us;” swaths of armed white supremacists brutally assaulting peaceful protesters; and bloodied bodies strewn across a narrow street after James Alex Fields Jr. intentionally barreled his car through a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring many others.

In October 2017, in the wake of the devastation wrought by the violence in Charlottesville that weekend, a coalition of three law firms filed a civil conspiracy lawsuit against two dozen defendants, including the leaders and foot soldiers of the white supremacist movement as well as their neo-Nazi organizations, on behalf of nine Virginia residents who were seriously injured in the violence on August 11-12, 2017. The lawsuit leveraged a 19th century law written to curb the Ku Klux Klan and alleged a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence under that statute and under Virginia’s state conspiracy law.

Using cutting-edge discovery techniques and persistence, the plaintiffs’ legal team won numerous motions to compel and obtained sanctions against numerous defendants that included jail time, financial penalties, adverse inferences, and, against one defendant, facts deemed admitted. Plaintiffs’ counsel also won the right to present expert testimony from a leading expert on the white supremacist movement and a preeminent scholar on anti-Semitism.

The four-week trial, held amid heavy security in October and November 2021, “came at an extraordinary moment for America’s judicial system,” and was “like none other in recent memory,” the Washington Post noted. During trial, the plaintiffs were subjected to hate speech and doxing by white supremacists online who were following the public proceedings. In a historic victory on November 23, 2021, a federal jury found as to each defendant a conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence, awarding over $26 million in compensatory and punitive damages to the nine plaintiffs; (punitive damages were subsequently reduced by the trial judge and are the subject of an appeal in the Fourth Circuit). Following the verdict, Paul, Weiss partner Karen Dunn won The American Lawyer’s “Litigator of the Week” recognition for the trial achievement, and in September 2023, Karen, Paul, Weiss partner Jessica Phillips and co-counsel from Kaplan Hecker & Fink were featured in an HBO Original documentary on the four-year litigation, No Accident.

The case forges a new playbook by deploying traditional principles of conspiracy law against individuals who had planned, organized and perpetrated racially motivated violence in the most untraditional of ways, in conjunction with novel uses of historic law. Such cases may win significant damages, draining violent hate groups of funds that otherwise might be used to hold similar events and foment violence. The case also demonstrates the importance of scouring the universe for sources of evidence. The plaintiffs’ counsel discovered racist podcast recordings of the defendants, video footage shot on iPhones by local activists and messages leaked by an anonymous group from the private social media channels the defendants used to organize the conspiracy. And it shows the importance of relying upon expert testimony—in this case, about antisemitism and white supremacy—helping jurors connect the dots between racism and violence.

Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C.

Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal Church v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C.

In December 2020, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reached out to Paul, Weiss to join forces in bringing a lawsuit on behalf of a historic Black church, the Metropolitan African Methodist Episcopal church, against the Proud Boys and its leaders, seeking redress for the group’s attack on the church during the group’s so-called “stop the steal” rally in December 2020.

In 2023, in a blistering order awarding judgment, Superior Court Judge Neal Kravitz found that the attack on AME “resulted from a highly orchestrated set of events focused on the Proud Boys’ guiding principles: white supremacy and violence.” He held that “all of the defendants acted with an evil, discriminatory motive based on race,” and that “defendants’ unlawful conduct was reprehensible to an extreme degree.”

The court ultimately awarded the Church more than $2.8 million, including $1 million in punitive damages against the Proud Boys entity and its leaders, Enrique Tarrio, John Turano, Ethan Nordean, Joseph R. Biggs and Jeremy Bertino. The punitive damages award was more than 27 times the amount of compensatory damages — and the fourth-highest amount ever awarded against white supremacists. Paul, Weiss is currently working to enforce the award.

On July 1, 2024, we filed suit to enforce the $2.8 million judgment against the Proud Boys and its leaders. The new lawsuit, filed in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, alleges that the Proud Boys and its leaders engaged in fraudulent activity to prevent the church from collecting the judgment, including terminating the Proud Boys entity and surrendering its trademark registration. Our client seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages, to avoid any transfer of the Proud Boys trademark and to impose a lien on the trademark as the principal asset of the Proud Boys.

District of Columbia v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C. and the Oath Keepers, et al.

District of Columbia v. Proud Boys International, L.L.C. and the Oath Keepers, et al.

The Anti-Defamation League and States United Democracy Center brought in Paul, Weiss and Dechert LLP as co-counsel in a federal lawsuit on behalf of the District of Columbia to hold the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers accountable for their role in planning and carrying out the deadly January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol—the first such suit by a government entity against the January 6 insurrectionists seeking to recoup damages for their violent conduct.

Following the 2020 Presidential election, in response to a call by two far-right organizations, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, thousands of would-be insurgents from across the country amassed in the District, marched through its streets, and gathered at the U.S. Capitol, ready and eager to carry out a violent attack on the lawful operation of government.

Then, as the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, their leadership, and their affiliates had planned, hundreds of the marchers rioted, including breaking through police barricades, forcing their way into the Capitol building, terrorizing members of Congress and their staff, and brutally assaulting those who tried to stop them, including the District’s police force.

The lawsuit seeks to recover damages for the substantial costs the District incurred as a result of the attack, particularly the physical and emotional injuries suffered by officers in the District’s Metropolitan Police Department.

The complaint details how the groups planned, recruited, publicized, funded and carried out a coordinated violent attack intended to interfere with the functioning of government and overturn a lawful election. The central pillar of this extraordinary lawsuit, like the Charlottesville case, is the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871.

Discovery is ongoing.

Gersh v. Anglin

Gersh v. Anglin

The Southern Poverty Law Center brought suit on behalf of Tanya Gersh, a Jewish woman who was the victim of a “troll storm” of harassment and threats, and recovered a $14 million judgment against Andrew Anglin, a white supremacist, antisemitic conspiracy theorist, Holocaust denier and editor of a neo-Nazi website called The Daily Stormer .

Gersh and the Southern Poverty Law Center then brought in Paul, Weiss as co-counsel to help enforce the $14 million judgment. Paul, Weiss obtained an arrest warrant against Anglin, who has gone into hiding, began de-platforming The Daily Stormer and is working to track down Anglin’s assets.

Plaintiff Doe 1 and Plaintiff Doe 2 v. Patriot Front, et al.

Plaintiff Doe 1 and Plaintiff Doe 2 v. Patriot Front, et al.

On October 21, 2021, members of a white supremacist group, Patriot Front, spray painted over a massive, colorful mural in a public park in a majority-Black community in Richmond, Virginia, honoring Richmond-born tennis legend Arthur Ashe near the once-segregated courts where the young Grand Slam champion learned to play. Patriot Front, a group that calls for the formation of a white ethno-state, filmed themselves painting their logo over Ashe’s face.

On October 18, 2022, two Richmond residents filed suit against the group, its founder and national director, Thomas Rousseau; network director Paul Gancarz; two other identified members; and 23 “John Doe” defendants, looking to the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and co-counsel Paul, Weiss and Hunton Andrews Kurth for legal representation.

In their federal lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the suit claims that the vandalism represented an act of intimidation, and accuses the Patriot Front of targeting the neighborhood, making the neighborhood feel unsafe. The lawsuit alleges conspiracy to violate civil rights under the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 as well as intimidation based on racial animosity under Virginia state law, among other claims.

In March 2024, the court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss in its entirety, and the case is moving into discovery.

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