A Washington federal judge has chastised both parties in a lawsuit filed by a Muslim advocacy nonprofit group against a former intern accused of stealing thousands of internal documents as part of an “undercover operation.” The judge took both sides to task for failing to adhere to her instructions in the latest phase of the case.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations Action Network, which is based in Washington, is suing author and self-described counterterrorism researcher Paul Gaubatz and his son, Chris Gaubatz, over the alleged theft of more than 12,000 internal documents.
The group alleges Chris Gaubatz applied for an internship with the organization falsely posing as a Muslim college student. He interned with the group from April to August 2008.
That Chris Gaubatz obtained the internal documents and gave them to his father is undisputed – in a book about the nonprofit written by Paul Gaubatz and co-author Paul Sperry, the entire affair is described as a “daring undercover operation” and cites many of the documents in question – but the two sides dispute whether they were taken unlawfully and also whether the publication of the documents constitutes protected speech.
Since filing the original complaint (PDF) against Paul and Chris Gaubatz, the nonprofit has made two separate motions to file amended versions to include additional defendants and claims as more information has become available. The Gaubatzes are challenging both motions to file amended complaints, arguing the nonprofit has failed to show they would offer anything substantially novel in new pleadings.
The defendants have also filed a motion to dismiss (PDF), arguing that the damages being sought – for the publication of the nonprofit’s internal documents – are protected under the First Amendment.
U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly issued an order on April 13 requesting both sides to meet and file a joint status report on whether any legal issues had been resolved throughout the course of filings, and also whether the motion to dismiss could be denied without prejudice pending a ruling of the motions to amend.
In a minute order issued today, Kollar-Kotelly said that in granting leave for both sides to sort through whether certain aspects of three pending motions might be moot in light of newer filings, she believes they took it “as an opportunity to raise a host of tangential and irrelevant matters that in no way clarify the relationship between the three aforementioned motions.”
In light of the fact that none of the issues could be narrowed, Kollar-Kotelly set a schedule to fully brief the pending motions to amend.
During his time with the nonprofit, according to the complaint, Gaubatz allegedly stole more than 12,000 e-mails, spreadsheets and other internal documents from the organization and delivered them to Paul Gaubatz. Chris Gaubatz is also accused of secretly recording conversations and meetings.
The elder Gaubatz published a book on the nonprofit in 2009, called “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld that’s Conspiring to Islamize America.” In the book, Gaubatz describes Chris Gaubatz’s time at CAIR as a counterintelligence operation in which the younger Gaubatz gathered documents and other information on the group. The book cites numerous internal documents the group alleges were unlawfully stolen, and even describes Chris Gaubatz’s internal monologue as he prepared to take on his false identify.
The nonprofit sued both Chris and Paul Gaubatz in October 2009 and is being represented by in-house counsel Nadhira Al-Khalili. The defendants are being represented by Bernard Grimm of Washington’s Cozen O’Connor, California attorney Daniel Horowitz and Martin Garbus of New York’s Eaton & Van Winkle.