Joe Francis Avoids Sanctions in $3 Million Defamation Suit

LOS ANGELES — Girls Gone Wild honcho Joe Francis won't face sanctions for failing to provide discovery in a $3 million defamation suit in federal court in Trenton, N.J., the New Jersey Law Journal reported today.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lois Goodman of the District of New Jersey said she believed Francis was dodging discovery, but she found that the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that subpoenas and notices of deposition were properly served.

Francis has been proceeding pro se in the case since January 2014 after his attorney was allowed to withdraw from representing him. But Francis refuses to provide the court or opposing counsel with his telephone number, and has failed to respond to several court orders for discovery, according to court documents. He claims his frequent traveling prevents him from being reached by phone.

In 2012, U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano of the District of New Jersey entered a default judgment for $3 million against Francis and two of his companies in the defamation suit filed by Amber Arpaio.

Arpaio filed the suit after she discovered a call girl named Ashley Alexandra Dupré had apparently stolen Arpaio’s ID and flashed it to the camera during a shoot for Girls Gone Wild. The video of Dupré flashing Arpaio’s New Jersey driver’s license was widely circulated online after Dupre sued Francis, claiming she was 17 at the time of the shoot (she later dropped the suit).  

In 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit reversed and remanded the defamation case, finding the district court improperly asserted personal jurisdiction. The appeals court remanded the case for a determination on whether the court has personal jurisdiction over Francis.

According to the Law Journal, Arpaio asked the court to find it properly exercised jurisdiction over Francis as a sanction for his defaults on discovery. She also sought a ruling prohibiting Francis from opposing her claims based on the jurisdiction issue, as well as the reimbursement of $26,280 in fees and costs incurred as a result of his non-compliance with a pretrial scheduling order.