Gossip About Real Housewives of Orange County “Bravolebrities” Is on “Public Issue”
From Bellino v. Judge, decided yesterday, in an opinion by Presiding Justice Kathleen O’Leary, joined by Justices Richard Fybel and Thomas Goethals:
Tamra Judge and Shannon Beador, cast members of the nationally televised reality show the “Real Housewives of Orange County” (RHOC), appeared on a gossip podcast. During the podcast, Judge and Beador made comments about James Bellino, the ex-husband of Judge’s former RHOC castmate. Bellino and his company, Jump Management Co., LLC (JMCO) (collectively referred to as Plaintiffs), sued the women for defamation and other related claims….
Bellino is a businessperson and entrepreneur. He is the managing member of JMCO. Bellino’s ex-wife Alexis Bellino was a cast member of RHOC from 2008 to 2013. Alexis and Bellino were married throughout the time Alexis was a cast member of RHOC. Bellino was never a cast member of RHOC, but was occasionally featured. On June 21, 2018, Bellino filed for divorce from Alexis….
On June 26, 2018, Judge and Beador appeared at the Irvine Improv comedy club to appear on the podcast the “Juicy Scoop” with Heather McDonald before a live audience. Part of the conversation involved the recent Bellino divorce. Judge said about the Bellinos, “I have a theory. Everything, everything’s in her name. He’s going to go to jail. Yeah, he’s a shady motherfucker.”
McDonald asked, “Do they still have the trampoline parks? Does anyone know?” The exchange continued as follows: “[Ms. Beador]: No. No. I heard that they don’t. [¶] [Ms. McDonald]: They sold it? [¶] [Ms. Beador]: I heard they don’t because they were sued. [¶] [Ms. McDonald]: So there wasn’t, like, a lawsuit of someone that, that—[¶] [Ms. Beador]: No, they were, they were sued. Kids … People [sic] get their … I won’t let my kids go because people get paralyzed, and they, and apparently that happens.” …
The anti-SLAPP statute provides heightened procedural protection for a defendant’s speech in only four categories, all of which must be “‘in connection with a public issue.'” …
Bellino’s arguments allege the comments were not a matter of public interest and Bellino was not in the public eye for purposes of those comments. Judge alleged, “Bellino, a well-known celebrity whose fame arose from his and his former wife’s five years as participants on the widely
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