On Wednesday, August 1, 2018, at the Provencial Civil Court of Alberta, the Honey Badger Brigade received a ruling on its case against the Calgary Expo and The Mary Sue. This ruling was read aloud by the judge, with our legal adviser Harry Kopyto attending by phone.
At the end of the trial itself, the Honey Badgers were hopeful that we’d received a fair hearing and would see a verdict in our favor on all counts. Our physical evidence proved that the assertions printed about us in The Mary Sue, and then promoted by the Calgary Expo in response to queries regarding our expulsion, were false. That is, that our booth had been not been registered under a false name, but as Honey Badger Brigade, and that we had neither created a disruption nor engaged in any harassment; that the Calgary Expo did not follow their own stated policies, part of the exhibitor agreement referenced in the contract, in their handling of the incident in question, and therefore had not fulfilled their end of the contract between booth vendor and venue; and that as a result Alison suffered financial losses that fit the legal definition of special damages. Our evidence and our opponents’ explicit defense testimony proved that the accusations they publicized were made with malice and caused reputational damage. Our evidence and our opponents’ explicit defense testimony proved that there had been no negative public reaction whatsoever to the presence of the Honey Badger Brigade at the Calgary Expo until The Mary Sue’s editor Sam Maggs began discussing our presence there, and her friend Soha, not present at the expo, publicized our attendance, with negative commentary, on Twitter.
Our opponents did not submit any evidence. They did not call any witnesses other than Shayne Henkelman, testifying on behalf of Calgary Expo. Their entire case was based on the testimony of one Calgary Expo employee who by that time was the only representative on the side of both defendants, who had both fired their lawyer.
The Mary Sue didn’t even show up for court.
Due to these facts, it came as even more of a surprise when the judge ruled against us on all four causes of action. This was further compounded when, in the course of stating his reasons for his ruling, the judge demonstrated that his decision was partly based on treating physical evidence which had been entered into the record, upon which he had ruled, as if it did not exist.
Alison Tieman had submitted both the full-length recording of the entire panel discussion at which she has been accused of creating a disruption, and the segment that is alleged to be “harassment.” During the proceedings, Alison had requested to have the entire, full-length panel recording played for the court to show that her behavior was not dramatically different from other attendees at the panel. The judge had denied that request, stating that he would take it under advisement that her behavior was no different, but that if our opponents contested that version of events, the recording would be played. Later, in his ruling the judge stated that he could not be sure he’d heard the entire incident and therefore could not be sure that the allegations of harassment were not based on something from the panel discussion that had been excluded from the recording he did hear, in effect stating that his ruling was in part based on his own refusal to hear evidence he deemed relevant to the case.
He stated that Alison had full knowledge of the Expo’s contract when she applied, but ignored the Expo’s failure to follow its own policies regarding its process for handling conflicts, such that their response to the situation denied Alison the full measure of the contract she signed. His acceptance of our opponents’ arguments regarding Alison’s actions relies in part on considering the exhibitor agreement’s anti-harassment policy contractual. However, the policies the Expo ignored regarding its conflict-management procedures are also part of the exhibitor agreement. Therefore the judge’s reasoning indicated that upon signing that contract, Alison became fully obligated under it, including an obligation to follow all of the policies referenced in it, but not entitled to expect the company she’d agreed to do business with to be equally obligated to do the same.
Additionally, his stated reasoning for why the Expo was not equally obligated included claims from the defendant’s arguments which were directly discredited by physical evidence, including the claim that the FBI had deemed gamergate a group that disseminates hate messages. Again, no physical evidence supporting that claim was submitted, while Alison had submitted physical evidence disproving it.
The judge indicated that his ruling was partly based on a misreading of the evidence regarding Calgary Expo personnel’s tweeted promotion of The Mary Sue’s claims about us, which he described as if they had come from an uninvolved 3rd party and not the Expo, and had been published on the Expo’s Twitter account by said 3rd party and not the Expo. The testimony and physical evidence in the case show that the tweet in question was composed by Expo personnel and displayed on social media via the Expo’s official account in response to a 3rd party’s question as to why we had been evicted.
These and other errors in the reasoning given for this ruling create a case for appeal.
Based on the stated logic of the judge, this would set the same precedent into law that, had we chosen not to fight in the first place, would have been set into the social matrix. It would pave the way for business entities to accept money from consumers for goods or services, refuse to provide the purchased product and keep the consumer’s money, then publicly defame the consumer as a person of fraudulent business practices, using as their excuse a condition (in our case, political unpopularity) that was not explicitly addressed in the sales contract.
It is the Honey Badger Brigade’s position that this ruling cannot be allowed to stand unchallenged, not just because what was done to Alison and to our group was wrong, but because of the implications of rolling over at this point. This is Alison’s fight, and it’s the Honey Badger Brigade’s fight, but this is also a fight for everyone like us who would be at risk for similar treatment at the hands of any corporate entity wanting to hide unfair business practices behind the mask of political correctness. Alison Tieman and the HBB are considering an appeal of the ruling and continue the fight in a higher court.
The appeals process is far more simple than the case has been to this point.
New evidence is generally not submitted during an appeals process. Rather, the party filing an appeal asks the appeals court to consider whether the original judge’s ruling was in error based on the existing evidence and the applicable law. Witnesses would not have to be in attendance.
[Edit: If we fight back in appellate court or via the court of public opinion by making the transcript available for everyone to draw their own conclusion from the proceedings, we’re still deciding on. Please stay tuned. – Alison]