October 27, 2023

A Willkie pro bono team, along with co-counsel in Texas, were named “Litigators of the Week” by The AmLaw Litigation Daily for their recent win on behalf of the families of children who were murdered in the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The Willkie team, led by partners Stuart Lombardi and Jennifer Hardy, worked alongside Texas co-counsel Avi Moshenberg and Jarrod Martin, to obtain the October 19 ruling holding that Alex Jones cannot use his personal bankruptcy to discharge debt that he owes to Willkie’s clients for defaming them and committing intentional infliction of emotional distress. Willkie’s role in representing these families opposes the efforts of Alex Jones and his company Free Speech Systems, LLC to erase the debt Jones and FSS owe to the parents.

The feature Q&A includes discussion of what was at stake, how the work was coordinated among multiple teams, what happens next, what others can take from this decision, and what the lawyers will remember most about this matter, among other topics. 

In discussing the coordination among the various teams, Jennifer Hardy commented, “The bankruptcy and litigation teams have very much acted as a single team. We discuss matters relating to the case collectively at least weekly, and usually more often. We each attend the hearings, review and comment on the various filings, and coordinate on overall strategy.” 

Partner Stuart Lombardi discussed the hearing in front of Judge Christopher M. Lopez where he argued the motion for summary judgment in the Southern District of Texas Bankruptcy Court. “This is an emotionally-charged case with really gut-wrenching facts, but we knew we had a sharp judge who wanted to focus on the law,” Stuart explained. 

Jenn also commented on what others can take from this decision. “The biggest takeaway is that those, like Alex Jones, that use their platforms to defame others, cannot then use bankruptcy as a means to escape from their responsibilities to the people they have injured,” Jenn said. “Bankruptcy is meant as an escape valve for the honest but unfortunate debtor, but it does not, and should not, provide an unqualified right to get rid of all debt.”

In addition to Stuart and Jenn, the Willkie team also included partner Rachel Strickland and associates Ciara Sisco, Courtenay Cullen and Deanna Drenga. 

Read The AmLaw Litigation Daily article here.