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Law & Principles

Jonathan Small | June 17, 2024

Frivolous Paycom case shows that lawfare impact reaches beyond Trump

Jonathan Small

Many Oklahomans have been disturbed as they watched the recent, farcical trial of Donald Trump in a New York court, and with good cause. The “trial” has made a mockery of our justice system and shows how the left can corrupt even our nation’s justice system.

But what many Oklahomans may not fully understand is how the current system can be used to harass or hamstring not just Donald Trump but also conservatives from across the state of Oklahoma.

For years, conservatives have championed lawsuit reform to protect Oklahomans from frivolous lawsuits, shield businesses from being forced to expend large sums fighting nonsense in court, and make certain that our legal system is devoted to justice.

Yet many opponents dismiss the idea that frivolous lawsuits even exist. If a court allows a lawsuit to proceed, it must be legitimate, they argue.

But anyone using a common-sense definition of “frivolous” can see the problem is real.

We at OCPA have been fighting one such lawsuit for four years now.

In a 2020 article, OCPA briefly referenced Paycom CEO Chad Richison’s public advocacy for draconian COVID policies that would have had a significant negative impact on the livelihood of many Oklahomans. For example, Richison even wanted to dictate how Oklahomans could purchase a box of cereal (or any other goods) at the grocery store. The article linked directly to a copy of Richison’s public letter demanding those restrictions, allowing Oklahomans to view the entire document for themselves.

Paycom subsequently sued OCPA, claiming we engaged in defamation and tortious interference by briefly highlighting Richison’s public comments.

On its face, the lawsuit is patent nonsense. For one thing, the article’s glancing reference to Richison’s statements, made toward the bottom of the news story, was accurate. Secondly, Paycom cannot even demonstrate that it suffered any harm from the publicity given to Richison’s comments—and cannot demonstrate how OCPA’s article created harm that was not similarly caused by numerous other media outlets reporting on Richison’s demands. And, most importantly, the First Amendment protects citizens’ rights to engage in free speech on policy issues and publish news.

The lack of seriousness can also be seen in Paycom’s legal tactics. After dragging out the lawsuit for four years, the company just recently decided it needed to depose some OCPA employees. Ask yourself: If you filed a lawsuit with merit, would you wait for four years to do depositions?

OCPA has filed a request for summary judgment. There are no facts in dispute, and the case has dragged on long enough.

What OCPA has faced pales in comparison to the harassment directed at Trump, but our case also shows that lawfare is not targeted solely at former presidents. And Oklahomans from all walks of life could face similar threats. That’s why legal reform is such an important issue in our state and nationwide.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

Jonathan Small President

Jonathan Small

President

Jonathan Small, C.P.A., serves as President and joined the staff in December of 2010. Previously, Jonathan served as a budget analyst for the Oklahoma Office of State Finance, as a fiscal policy analyst and research analyst for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, and as director of government affairs for the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Small’s work includes co-authoring “Economics 101” with Dr. Arthur Laffer and Dr. Wayne Winegarden, and his policy expertise has been referenced by The Oklahoman, the Tulsa World, National Review, the L.A. Times, The Hill, the Wall Street Journal and the Huffington Post. His weekly column “Free Market Friday” is published by the Journal Record and syndicated in 27 markets. A recipient of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s prestigious Private Sector Member of the Year award, Small is nationally recognized for his work to promote free markets, limited government and innovative public policy reforms. Jonathan holds a B.A. in Accounting from the University of Central Oklahoma and is a Certified Public Accountant.

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