Court: Kieckhefer lawsuit against ex-opponent can move forward |

Court: Kieckhefer lawsuit against ex-opponent can move forward

by Geoff Dornan

A defamation lawsuit against a former candidate who once sought to represent Douglas County will go forward under a Nevada Supreme Court ruling.

Gary Schmidt, who opposed Jim Wheeler in the 2012 primary, is facing the lawsuit in connection with his attempt to unseat state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer in 2014.

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled unanimously that Kieckhefer’s defamation lawsuit against Schmidt can continue.

Kieckhefer sued Gary Schmidt charging he was defamed in a campaign ad that claimed Kieckhefer endorsed Harry Reid’s re-election in 2010.

Schmidt filed to dismiss the action arguing it was filed to prevent public participation. Washoe District Judge Jerry Polaha denied the motion but Schmidt appealed.

The Supreme Court this week agreed with Polaha that Kieckhefer could win his suit by showing Schmidt made the statement with malice.

Kieckhefer presented the Sun article Schmidt claims made that endorsement, showing he endorsed Sen. Bill Raggio for majority leader despite Raggio’s support for Reid, not that he supported Reid’s re-election.

“There is no rational way to read the Las Vegas SUN article without concluding that Kieckhefer supported Raggio for majority leader,” the order states. “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 Kieckhefer supported Reid.”

The only part of the Oct. 31, 2010, Las Vegas Sun article that mentions Kiekhefer is this section:

“Raggio, first elected in 1972, … said he wasn’t concerned with questions about who will lead the caucus. … Some Republicans who talked to the Las Vegas Sun said they support the longtime leader. Besides Raggio, the group includes Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, who’s running for state Senate; Ben Kieckhefer, a former spokesman for Gov. Jim Gibbons running for a seat in Reno; and Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, who has also publicly backed Reid and is not up for re-election.”

The high court’s seven members rejected Schmidt’s attempt to quash the lawsuit, which meant Kieckhefer can press his claim for damages.

Kieckhefer, a Republican, represents District 16 which includes south Reno and all of Carson City.