SCBWI, Lin Oliver File Motion To Dismiss Jay Asher Lawsuit Against Them

Citing California public-figure laws, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators and its executive director move to have the author's defamation lawsuit against them thrown out.

Lawyers for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) and its executive director, Lin Oliver, have filed a motion to have the defamation suit against them by Thirteen Reasons Why author Jay Asher thrown out.

Asher sued Oliver and SCBWI in January , alleging that they made false and defamatory statements about him that damaged his reputation and career. He is seeking monetary damages for defamation and “intentional infliction of emotional distress.”

In January 2018, stories in SLJ and Medium appeared about sexual harassment in children’s publishing. After the Medium story posted, comments were made on the SLJ story (the Medium post did not allow comments) accusing Asher of harassment at SCWBI conferences. Asher’s literary agent dropped him, and he lost speaking engagements following the accusations. On February 12, 2018, Oliver issued a statement to the Associated Press.

thirteenreasonswhycover"Both Jay Asher and David Diaz were found to have violated the SCBWI code of conduct in regard to harassment," Oliver wrote in the emailed statement. "Claims against them were investigated and, as a result, they are no longer members and neither will be appearing at any SCBWI events in the future."

According to the motion, Oliver felt compelled to speak publicly.

“Given the bombshell nature of the SLJ and Medium articles in the publishing industry, and the explosion of accusatory and speculative comments to those articles, Ms. Oliver and SCBWI determined that a release to the press was necessary to set the record straight,” the motion states.

But Asher disputes these facts, prompting his lawsuit. He has denied the allegations of harassment, saying he had consensual relationships that ended poorly, and has said that he voluntarily stepped away from SCBWI events. Citing California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) law, the SCWBI and Oliver motion argues that Asher is a public figure and unlikely to prevail in his case, because it says Oliver’s statements were true and Asher cannot prove they were “were extreme or outrageous” or "intended to inflict emotional distress.”

“In response to serious allegations in the children's publishing industry and against Plaintiff specifically during the height of the #MeToo movement, SCBWI and Ms. Oliver acted in a careful and measured manner to address the issues facing them,” the defendant’s motion states. “Plaintiff seeks to blame SCBWI and Ms. Oliver for the negative fallout caused by his own bad decisions and poor behavior. No evidence Plaintiff will be able to produce will show that any emotional distress he claims to be suffering is anybody's fault but his own.”

The motion offers a behind-the-scenes look at a turbulent time in children’s publishing in early 2018 as allegations of sexual harassment in the industry were coming to light. It details the correspondence between Oliver and the women who contacted her anonymously about Asher, as well as her contact with Asher’s representation about the alleged incidents.

As part of the motion, the lawyers are asking that Asher pay Oliver’s legal fees. The SCBWI/Oliver motion to dismiss is scheduled to be heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court on April 23.

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