Attorneys for Phoebe Bridgers say there’s no need for her to sit for depositions in a defamation lawsuit filed by producer Chris Nelson, calling such requests “nothing more than thinly veiled harassment.”
Nelson demanded the right to depose Bridgers last month, arguing it was the only way he could prove that she intentionally lied about him when she echoed abuse allegations. But her lawyers are now claiming his request was merely designed to burden the star and delay the proceedings.
“Mr. Nelson’s amorphous request for discovery based on his attorney’s circular statement that it is necessary is nothing more than thinly veiled harassment,” Alan A. Greenberg, Bridgers’ lawyer, wrote in a Wednesday court filing.
Nelson sued Bridgers in September in Los Angeles court, claiming she had defamed him by posting false information to social media as part of a “vendetta to destroy plaintiff’s reputation.”
He pointed to a series of October 2020 Instagram posts, in which the singer she had “witnessed and can personally verify much of the abuse (grooming, stealing, violence) perpetuated by Chris Nelson.” She also directed her followers to a separate thread from friend Emily Bannon, which contained more extensive allegations against Nelson.
After a judge admonished him for not properly serving Bridgers with the lawsuit, Nelson refiled the case in December – only this time containing more than 100 pages of revealing texts and images involving the singer-songwriter.
Last month, Bridgers moved to end the lawsuit. She cited California’s so-called anti-SLAPP law — a statute designed to restrict lawsuits that chill free speech – and argued that Nelson was using his lawsuit to silence her claims of abuse. Her attorneys also sharply criticized his inclusion of “salacious” images and texts, calling it a “transparent attempt to embarrass Ms. Bridgers and to get attention for his dispute with her.”
Seeking to keep his case alive, Nelson argued in February that he must be able to depose Bridgers and seek evidence before the judge rules on her anti-SLAPP motion. He says he needs to know whether she intended to lie, or merely did so accidentally – a key distinction in libel cases.
“Defendant is the only source of her intent,” Nelson’s lawyers wrote. “Plaintiff has a due process right to take the deposition of defendant and obtain documents.”
But on Wednesday, Bridgers’ attorneys said that a ruling in Nelson’ss favor would essentially defeat the very purpose of the anti-SLAPP law: “If plaintiffs could justify lifting the discovery stay based solely on their lack of available evidence to oppose an anti-SLAPP motion, that would enable those with the weakest claims to inflict the expense and delay of discovery on the defendants the legislature most intended to protect by providing a procedure for courts to dismiss at an early stage non-meritorious litigation meant to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights.”
A hearing in the case is currently set for later this month.