Michael Milosh of Rhye’s Lawsuit Against Ex-Wife’s Attorneys Thrown Out
Michael Milosh of Rhye’s lawsuit against his ex-wife Alexa Nikolas’ attorneys for malicious prosecution was stricken at a hearing in Los Angeles County Superior Court on February 9, court documents viewed by Pitchfork confirm. Milosh’s representatives offered no comment when reached by Pitchfork. There will be a case management conference in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, records show.
Nikolas sued Milosh in 2021 for sexual battery, gender violence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and a violation of California’s Tom Bane Civil Rights Act. Nikolas voluntarily dropped her lawsuit in May 2022, and Milosh subsequently sued her for more than $10 million in damages. His complaint against the attorneys referred to Nikolas’ litigation as “frivolous” and without “legal basis or factual support.”
Nikolas’ attorneys—Karen Barth Menzies, Deborah S. Mallgrave, Brian L. Williams, and Jemme E. Dunn, plus the law firms Gibbs Law LLP and Greenberg Gross LLP—filed a motion to strike Milosh’s lawsuit as an unlawful strategic lawsuit against public participation, also known as an anti-SLAPP motion. This placed the burden on Milosh’s team to show the probability of prevailing on a malicious prosecution claim.
It’s a two-step process to evaluate an anti-SLAPP motion. Nikolas’ attorneys first argued that the lawsuit was protected under the First Amendment right of petition. Milosh’s attorneys countered by arguing that Nikolas’ team engaged in the unprotected activity of “extortion,” but Judge Yolanda Orozco wrote that Milosh offered insufficient evidence of conduct amounting to extortion. The judge therefore sided with Nikolas’ attorneys in the first step in establishing Milosh’s lawsuit as a strategic lawsuit against public participation.
The second part of the process required Milosh’s team to establish the probability of success in a malicious prosecution lawsuit. Judge Orozco agreed that Nikolas’ voluntary dismissal of the lawsuit amounted to a “favorable termination of [the] underlying action in [Milosh’s] favor.” Orozco then outlined how Milosh’s team failed to illustrate a lack of probable cause or malice. “Since defendants had probable cause in filing the underlying action, plaintiff cannot meet the malice element as a matter of law,” Orozco wrote. “Accordingly, plaintiff’s malicious prosecution claim fails, and the defendants’ anti-SLAPP motion is granted.” The court awarded the defendants—in this case, Nikolas’ lawyers—$5,760 to cover fees and costs.
Details from Thursday’s hearing revealed a possible reason for why Nikolas voluntarily dismissed her initial lawsuit against Milosh in May 2022. Milosh’s attorneys noted that Nikolas and Milosh both signed a “stipulated judgment” with a “general release of all claims either [Milosh] or Ms. Nikolas may have against each other.” The agreement in question was signed on May 17, 2019; according to records, that was also the day their divorce was finalized.
One of the defendants, Karen Barth Menzies, noted that she was not aware of the stipulated judgment’s terms until after Nikolas’ lawsuit was filed. “Menzies asserts that after learning of the release language in the stipulation and judgment in the divorce proceeding, she communicated to plaintiff’s counsel that she had no intention of further prosecuting the case unless and until the judgment was set aside in family court,” the hearing’s minutes read.
The minutes also note: “Barth Menzies asserts that she believed Nikolas’ claims had merit. Barth Menzies relied on Nikolas’ ‘open letter’ on Instagram, before and during the pendency of the underlying action. She believed Nikolas’ allegations to be true and never received any information to show that the allegations were untrue, taken out of context, or fabricated.”
When reached for comment, Karen Barth Menzies said, “This legal ordeal has been difficult, but I consider this anti-SLAPP ruling a badge of honor earned in the defense of the survivors of sexual assault.”
Alexa Nikolas has previously told Rolling Stone that she plans to re-file her lawsuit.