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Nevada state senator prevails in defamation suit appeal

CARSON CITY — A candidate who ran unsuccessfully against Reno state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer in the 2014 GOP primary has lost his appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court seeking to dismiss a defamation action brought by the lawmaker.

The unanimous decision is a loss for Gary Schmidt, who had claimed in an ad that Kieckhefer supported and endorsed U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in his 2010 reelection campaign.

Kieckhefer sued Schmidt over the ad.

Schmidt claimed in arguments before the Supreme Court in September that Kieckhefer’s lawsuit violated Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute, which is intended to stop frivolous lawsuits that are filed to chill free speech. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

But the unanimous court, in an unpublished order, said Washoe District Judge Jerome Polaha was right in dismissing Schmidt’s claims. The court found, however, that the lower court incorrectly determined that Schmidt made his statements in good faith.

Schmidt based his claim on a newspaper article that referenced Kieckhefer’s support of the state Senate leadership role of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who had supported Reid in his 2010 race over GOP candidate Sharron Angle.

“Because one cannot rationally infer from this article that Kieckhefer supported Reid and there has been absolutely no other evidence presented that supports Schmidt’s statement, we conclude that he did not act in good faith when he claimed that Kiechkefer supported Reid,” the court said.

Kieckhefer sued Schmidt over the ad and won a district court ruling a few days before the primary that required Schmidt to pull the commercial from further broadcast. The court found that Kieckhefer was likely to prevail on his defamation claims, and that he was likely to suffer “irreparable injury to his career and reputation” if the ads were allowed to continue.

Kieckhefer said he was happy with the ruling, and will be consulting with his attorney on how to proceed.

“We will see where we need to go from here,” he said.

Kieckhefer won the primary and was re-elected to a four-year term in the 2014 general election.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801

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