The jury trial between Gawker Media and Terry Bollea (a.k.a. Hulk Hogan), previously scheduled to begin July 6, has been delayed indefinitely. In a scathing opinion published today—four days prior to the trial’s start—Florida’s Second District Court of Appeal ruled that the Pinellas County circuit court judge overseeing Bollea v. Gawker Media et al, Pamela Campbell, failed to enforce the strict rules governing the scheduling of jury trials.
The precise details of the appellate court’s ruling are complicated, but the general thrust is easy to grasp. Under Florida’s rules of civil procedure (specifically rule 1.440), both defendants and plaintiffs are entitled to a 50-day window between the parties’ final pleas and the beginning of a jury trial. A June 19 order issued by Judge Campbell, setting the date of the trial for July 6, “plainly violated rule 1.440,” the appellate court wrote, citing Bollea’s various attempts to strike Gawker Media’s Hungarian component, Blogwire Hungary Szellemi Alkotάst Hasznosίtό, from the defendant list.
Elsewhere in the same opinion, the court suggests Campbell was “persuaded by Bollea’s side that it could disregard the opponents’ objections as innocuous technicalities” and that “although we easily understand why Bollea and the circuit court went to lengths to preserve the July 6 trial date, their efforts were futile from the outset.”
Campbell is the same judge who, in early 2013, issued a preliminary injunction compelling Gawker to remove a controversial blog post at the center of Bollea v. Gawker Media et al. A Florida appeals court later overturned the injunction on First Amendment grounds.
In 2012, Bollea sued Gawker Media, its CEO Nick Denton, and former editor-in-chief A.J. Daulerio after Gawker.com published several short excerpts of a video depicting Hogan having sex with Heather Clem, the ex-wife of Hogan’s ex-best-friend, the Florida shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem.
It is not yet clear when or if a new jury trial will be scheduled.
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