Hogan v. Winder, et al, No. 12-4167 (10th Cir. 2014)Annotate this Case
Chris Hogan lost his job with the Utah Telecommunications Open Infrastructure Agency("UTOPIA"). Claiming he was fired for revealing a conflict of interest in contract awards, he threatened to sue the agency for wrongful termination. Shortly after making this threat, he was subject to several unflattering media articles about his job performance and his termination dispute with the agency’s leaders. Several of the stories claimed his threats to sue the agency amounted to extortion or blackmail. One of the stories was written pseudonymously by Michael Winder, the mayor of West Valley City where UTOPIA did much of its business. Hogan sued UTOPIA, the mayor, the City, and a number of other people he believed were involved in the publication of the articles. He claimed the articles were defamatory, portrayed him in a false light, invaded his privacy, were an intentional infliction of emotional distress, a deprivation of his constitutional rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, and a civil conspiracy under 42 U.S.C. 1985. He also sued UTOPIA for First Amendment violations, breach of contract, wrongful termination, and other violations of state law in a separate lawsuit. The district court dismissed all of the claims, and finding no reversible error, the Tenth Circuit affirmed: "because the articles' critical statements are explained by their context, we agree with the district court's conclusion that the articles were neither defamatory nor otherwise tortiously offensive. And we further agree that Hogan's federal law claims cannot go forward because he has insufficiently pleaded that the defendants' actions were exercises of their power under state law and that the defendants conspired to punish Hogan for bringing his claims to court."