Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Michael Flatley, the self-styled “Lord of the Dance,” has a new and highly demanding audience to perform for — the justices of the California Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the court unanimously agreed to review a case in which the world-famous dancer is suing an Illinois lawyer for $100 million for alleged extortion. Attorneys for D. Dean Mauro, of Waukegan, Ill., had sought review by claiming that an appellate court’s decision to let Flatley’s suit proceed threatened to “undermine the right to petition and open access to the courts.” “In one fell swoop,” Orly Degani, a special counsel in the Los Angeles office of Sedgwick, Detert, Moran & Arnold, wrote, “the court held lawyers may be subject not only to civil action, but to criminal liability for extortion if they make aggressive pre-litigation settlement demands that simply state the obvious.” Mauro had sued Flatley for $35 million on behalf of ex-stripper Tyna Marie Robertson, who claimed that Flatley — acclaimed for the popular “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” road shows — raped her at The Venetian in Las Vegas in October 2002. Flatley denied the allegations, saying the two had shared his two-bedroom suite consensually. Mauro spent the next few months calling Flatley’s lawyers and threatening to “go public” with the rape allegations and “ruin” Flatley. He demanded $1 million for his and his client’s silence, according to court documents, and threatened to send news releases to Fox News, the Chicago Tribune and other media outlets after filing suit. Robertson filed the suit in 2003, but dropped the case soon after Flatley countersued her and Mauro for civil extortion and other charges. Mauro then filed an anti-SLAPP motion, claiming he had been seeking a proper settlement and was, therefore, engaged in protected activity. Los Angeles’ 2nd District Court of Appeal ruled against Mauro in September, saying it was “undisputed” that his conduct was a crime. “No prima facie showing has been made,” Justice Paul Turner wrote, “that Mr. Mauro’s speech and conduct are anything other than unprotected acts of extortion.” In seeking review, Mauro’s lawyers at Sedgwick argued that attorneys must be free from retaliatory lawsuits arising out of litigation-related activities if the American adversarial system is to work. “According to the court of appeal,” they wrote, “an attorney is guilty of criminal extortion if the attorney merely informs an adversary that failure to accept a settlement demand will result in the filing of civil proceedings which, due to the adversary’s celebrity status, will generate extensive media attention.” In response, Flatley’s lawyer, Bertram Fields, a partner at L.A.’s Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman Machtinger & Kinsella, accused Mauro of misrepresenting the facts. “Over and over again,” he wrote, “Mauro seeks to create the false impression that all he said on the subject of adverse publicity was that his lawsuit would draw media attention, not that he threatened direct action of his own, outside the lawsuit, to brand [Flatley] a rapist throughout the world. “In common parlance, he sought to ‘blackmail’ [Flatley] into paying his seven-figure price.” Fields also pointed out that California courts have repeatedly held that extortionate speech has no constitutional protections, and to be within the anti-SLAPP statute, the defendant’s conduct must be constitutionally protected. The case is Flatley v. Mauro, S128429.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.