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Woman enjoined from suing scholar again

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 15, 2022

Woman enjoined from suing scholar again

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//December 15, 2022

Where a woman twice sued an academic scholar for defamation, and both lawsuits were dismissed, the court entered a permanent injunction prohibiting her from suing him for any allegations that were the subject of the prior lawsuits or a book published by the woman.


On Dec. 31, 2020, Svetlana Lokhova sued Stefan A. Halper for defamation and tortious interference with contract based on Halper’s alleged interference with the publication of her book. After the court denied Halper’s motion to dismiss the amended complaint, Halper filed an answer and counterclaim which alleges: (1) defamation for statements Lokhova made about Halper in the marketing material for her book and her book, as well as for statements she made to individuals; (2) tortious interference with contract and business expectancies based on the alleged defamation and (3) for statutory recovery under Virginia’s anti-SLAPP statute.

On Sept. 9, 2022, a show-cause order was issued, giving plaintiff 21 days to show cause why her amended complaint should not be dismissed with prejudice and why a default judgment should not be entered in Halper’s favor on his counterclaims due to her failure to comply with her court-ordered discovery obligations. After finding Lokhova’s response to be non-responsive, plaintiff’s amended complaint was dismissed with prejudice, and judgment on the counterclaims was granted in Halper’s favor as to plaintiff’s liability. Halper was directed to file within seven days his specific request for monetary damages and injunctive relief.

Halper now seeks $37,500.00 in presumed damages based on the multiple defamatory statements contained in plaintiff’s book; $37,500.00 in punitive damages; $95,250.00 in attorney’s fees and $3,015.99 in costs, as well as an injunction prohibiting Lokhova from ever suing Halper again for any allegations raised in the prior lawsuits or her book.


Given evidence that plaintiff did not have the financial resources to pay the sanctions previously imposed on her and her former counsel, a reduced award of $1,000.00 in presumed damages and $10,000.00 in punitive damages is appropriate for the defamation claim. Moreover, because there is no evidence in the record of Halper suffering any loss of business, and Halper has not claimed any damages for tortious interference with contract, that claim will be dismissed.

Halper’s request for attorney’s fees and expenses is justified as a sanction for noncompliance with discovery obligations. Halper’s request for attorney’s fees under Virginia’s anti-SLAPP statute will be denied, however, because the amended complaint was not dismissed pursuant to a finding of immunity under the statute. Moreover, the Fourth Circuit has held that Virginia’s anti-SLAPP statute “does not require . . . and does not create a presumption in favor of a fee award” and instead leaves a fee award to the court’s discretion.


The court previously determined that the $500 hourly rate for Halper’s attorney is reasonable given his approximately 36 years of litigation experience as of July 2021. In total, Reed billed 86.75 hours of work that can be attributed to plaintiff’s noncompliance with discovery obligations, yielding fees in the amount of $43,375.00.

Based on the inadequate billing statements and the fact that plaintiff’s motion for a protective order and discovery objections did not raise any particularly difficult or novel questions, a 10 percent reduction is justified. The court has considered the remaining relevant factors and finds that none justify a further increase or decrease of the fee amount. In sum, Halper will be awarded $39,037.50 in attorney’s fees.

Halper also seeks to recover $3,015.99 in costs representing the cost of arranging plaintiff’s video deposition in London. Because the court permitted the deposition to occur in London by video for plaintiff’s convenience and plaintiff failed to appear, the total amount of those costs will be awarded, resulting in a total of $42,053.49 in attorney’s fees and costs.

Pre-filing injunction

Lastly, Halper seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting Lokhova from suing Halper for any allegations that were the subject of the prior lawsuit between the parties, this lawsuit or her book. The facts in the record and the history of litigation between the parties, including plaintiff’s filing of two lawsuits against Halper based on related allegations of defamation, support issuing the requested injunction against plaintiff.

Defendant’s application for judgment remedies granted in part, denied in part.

Lokhova v. Halper, Case No. 1:20-cv-1603, Dec. 2, 2022. EDVA at Alexandria (Brinkema). VLW 022-3-543. 15 pp.

VLW 022-3-543

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