A judge has dismissed defamation and other legal claims filed by a former Salt Lake County Republican Party communications director against Utah Gov. Spencer Cox and dozens of other state and county leaders as well as The Salt Lake Tribune.
Half a dozen Republican women alleged in March 2021 that David Robinson, a GOP volunteer, had contributed to a toxic environment within the county party and accused him of harassment, body shaming and other inappropriate behavior.
Robinson’s lawsuit, filed in January, named 148 defendants, many of them from the top ranks of Utah politics. He is alleging that statements, social media posts and Facebook likes by these leaders in connection with the controversy amounted to a “concerted effort to defame him.”
Robinson has also accused defendants of intentional interference with contractual and economic relations; intentional as well as negligent infliction of emotional distress; false light and conspiracy.
The women accusing Robinson, whose suit originally sought $60 million in damages, also said at the time former county party chair Scott Miller had downplayed their complaints about Robinson’s behavior. After the accusations emerged, Miller steadfastly supported Robinson, though he ultimately stepped down from his party post after Salt Lake County Republican representatives called for his resignation.
Miller has filed his own lawsuit alleging defamation, initially seeking $40 million in damages. Miller also makes accusations of conspiracy, interference with election efforts and violations of public records requests, as well as his civil and constitutional rights.
Miller, too, has named more than 100 defendants, including, like Robinson, Cox, Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson, and The Tribune, along with a host of other state and county officials.
After a hearing Tuesday, 3rd District Judge Barry Lawrence tossed out the latest version of Robinson’s suit with a two-page order filed Wednesday, though the judge left open the option for revising and refiling the claims within 60 days.
Lawrence wrote that Robinson’s legal action had leveled all of its “hundreds of paragraphs of factual allegations” against all the defendants, “without distinguishing between or among them.” That, the judge ruled, meant that the defendants had not been put on notice as to the particular claims against them, making the lawsuit insufficient.
In dismissing the case without prejudice, the judge urged Robinson and his attorneys to “be mindful” of the possibility of limiting future claims “only to those defendants against whom it is necessary to vindicate his rights.”
At a minimum, Lawrence wrote, any new pleading should specify which communications were made by which defendants and spell out more details on other acts that allegedly deprived him of his rights or caused him emotional distress. Defendants accused of conspiracy in the case, the judge said, also should be told the identity of those they were alleged to have conspired with.
Miller’s suit, according to court documents, is still pending before 3rd District Judge Amber Mettler.