Federici v Pignotti
Update March 4, 2011: The case filed in December, 2010, Federici v Mercer has been dismissed.
Just to clear up any confusion and present the facts as I understand and know them, thus far, I phoned the Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s office at 703 691 7320 on December 6, 2010 and they confirmed for me that Ronald Federici has filed a lawsuit against me. According to the information I was given by the clerk who answered the phone, the lawsuit was filed on the day before Thanksgiving, November 24, 2010. I gave her the case number that was posted on the History Making Lawsuit blog, CL10-16657, the clerk looked it up and she asked me, “Are you Monica Pignotti”? I said yes and she confirmed that my name was on the document. I asked the clerk who else was named and she told me: Monica Pignotti (she appeared to see my name first, so I assume it is at the top) , Jean Mercer, Charly Miller, Advocates for Children in Therapy, Linda Rosa and Larry Sarner plus John Does 1-10.
To date, none of the parties have been served with any papers, but the clerk told me that these were being sent to us. That is all the information I have right now. I do not have a list of any of the charges or know any specifics, other than what was available regarding his earlier small claims lawsuit against three of the parties for defamation and interference with business: Jean Mercer, Charly D. Miller and Advocates for Children in Therapy that I was not involved in but have verified via court records that he lost and is appealing. Jean Mercer provides details on her perspective of her part in this lawsuit on her blog.
To summarize, Ronald Federici is suing three parties he previously sued in small claims court and lost against and has added three new parties to the current lawsuit, including me. That is all I know for sure right now.
The History Making Lawsuit blog claims in its commentary that the lawsuit is for making defamatory statements. However, this is an anonymous blog and none of the documents posted there have been verified, so that is something to keep in mind. However, if this is a libel/defamation case which it likely is if the small claims case was any indication, here is some information from the Electronic Frontier Foundation on how libel, slander and defamation are defined and what he must prove. Citizen Media Law project provides an excellent, concise summary of Virginia defamation law and what constitutes defamation in Virginia and what does not. In the United States the burden of proof is on the plaintiff, not the defendants. At this point since I have not yet obtained a document that lists the specifics, I will hold off on any further speculation as to what I am being accused of.
People can read my writings on the internet and form their own opinions as to whether what I have written fits those definitions but ultimately, this will be up to a court of law to decide and I welcome the opportunity to present facts and evidence in a court of law where people will be required to put their names to their allegations. I will post updates, as more information becomes available.
Although many states have anti-SLAPP lawsuit legislation, the State of Virginia does not, as of this date.
One point I am in agreement with the History Making Lawsuit blog on is that although there have been other cases that are similar, should this case move forward, upon thinking this through I have changed my mind and decided that it does indeed have the potential to be a history making lawsuit especially in terms of the ramifications it has for the mental health profession regarding the ability of people to criticize licensed mental health professionals on the internet. As I understand the situation right now, the outcome could either have a chilling effect on the ability of people to criticize licensed mental health professionals or it will confirm that people have a right to do so, provided the criticism is, as I consider mine to be, based on supported facts that are sincerely held to be true and opinions based on the facts as the author sees them. Time will tell.
As I stated before, my previous skepticism, which I believe was reasonable and well warranted, was based on the fact that anonymous lies had been previously posted about legal events involving me (for example the lie that I was arrested, criminally charged, jailed, etc. that never happened and the statement made on Oct 1 that this lawsuit had been brought against me when on that date it had not). My basis for operation is that I need to see evidence before I am convinced of allegations, particularly when they come from anonymous individuals.
As with all my postings, this posting is based on the facts as I have been able to determine thus far, and my opinions regarding those facts as I see them.
In the meantime, the internet smear campaign continues, with allegations that because I have been sued I have been “deemed” unfit to teach. That is not correct. In the United States, people are considered innocent until proven guilty and since anyone and sue anyone else at any time for any reason, being sued means nothing at all. Moreover, faculty applications for employment (and at this point I have viewed literally hundreds) do not even appear to care whether a person has been sued in civil court. Faculty applications only ask for felony convictions, so there is no prohibition against hiring someone who has been sued in civil court or even committed a misdemeanor, even if they lost a judgment. There are even cases where universities have hired convicted felons who after serving their time in prison, got out and became excellent teachers but I am not even remotely in that category since this is a civil case that hasn’t even begun, hence the default position here in the US is innocent until/unless proven guilty.
Remember, this is the United States of America, not some totalitarian dictatorship where those in power can simply “deem” someone guilty. The default position here is innocence and the plaintiff in civil cases and state in criminal cases, always has the burden of proof, a concept some people seem to have a great deal of difficulty grasping both when it comes to court cases and when it comes to evaluating the claims being made by novel unsupported therapies. The burden of proof is on the claimant.
Disclaimer: This posting is not intended to speak on behalf of any individual or organization other than myself.