Forbes recently named Anna Wintour the 39th most powerful woman in the world. And though we didn’t think this was news, many publications were abuzz when she was not sitting in the front row at the Valentino Fall 2014 show. (The collection coming down the runway should’ve been the only thing worthy of a story, in our opinion.) Our point is that Ms. Wintour has made such a name for herself that even something as simple as moving a row up at a runway show, and out of the coveted first row, can seem (to some, not us) like the world is ending. But, her influence does not make her immune from being sued. And we’re not talking about a suit of the intern v. Condé Nast variety, either. No, we are talking about a suit brought by Gerard Corsini, a lawyer who’s been admitted to practice law in New York, California, and Massachusetts, and who claims that Wintour conspired with the likes of Mayor Bloomberg to have him arrested. Though the suit was very recently dismissed, it’s curious enough that we wanted to give you a more.
In 2012, Corsini filed a lawsuit claiming that Mayor Bloomberg, the City of New York, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast and others were conspiring to “falsely arrest and maliciously prosecute” him. The suit goes on to claim that the defendants aimed “to violate his First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment rights in order to protect illegal favored treatment of the film industry and suppress his exercise of First Amendment rights in opposition to what he believes are illegal film and photography shoots.”
The basics of the story are as follows: Corsini’s neighbor, socialite Betsy Morgan, was in the habit of opening her luxurious Chelsea townhouse for photo shoots. Corsini alleged that more than just being disruptive, these photo shoots were illegal, and so he began taking pictures and recording videos to document the “illegal” nature of Morgan’s use of her home. At some point in all of this, Corsini was arrested five times on claims that he harassed and stalked Morgan, her workers, and her daughters. In 2013, related to one of his arrests, Corsini was convicted of Stalking in the Fourth Degree and Harassment in the Second Degree. (His convictions signaled to him that the District Attorney was in on the conspiracy, too!) As for why Condé Nast and Wintour were named, the suit claims that there was name-calling at the hands of unidentified “employees or contractors at Condé Nast” and that he never received a return phone call from Wintour or a representative from her office regarding his complaints.
While many lawsuits can be really boring to read, this one was far from dull. Here are a couple of gems from this (bizarre) legal battle:
Of an arrest in 2011, Corsini alleges that he has imprisoned without probable cause and that his arrest was the product of a call from an unidentified woman in the street who called him “crazy,” “stalker,” “interested in young girls,” and “a creepy porno mate [sic]” in order “to lay a false predicate for ‘stalking’."
On April 26, 2011, at approximately 7:00 a.m., Ms. Morgan “left her residence accompanying [her] two young daughters and observed [Plaintiff Corsini] standing at the bottom of the stairs to [Morgan’s] home,” that “[Corsini] blocked [Morgan’s] path and refused to move for some time, while yelling, in substance, at [Morgan], YOU ARE A MANIPULATIVE LIAR AND ARE RUINING THIS BLOCK.”
Wintour and Condé Nast independently asked to be dismissed from the case - stating that failing to return a phone call is not an actual legal complaint and that Condé Nast is not liable for unnamed peoples’ actions. Instead, though, Judge Swain, of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York, dismissed the entire case on May 14th. Judge Swain found that the Fourth Amendment - false arrest and excessive force - claims failed because in one instance, Corsini was convicted and in the others, there were complaints made against him, giving officers probable cause to arrest him. Similarly, his Fourteenth Amendment - malicious prosecution - claims failed because he did not show a lack of probable cause at any point during his prosecution. Finally, Judge Swain found that Corsini had “failed to offer sufficient factual allegations to plead plausibly any type of conspiracy among the wide array of defendants.”
Another recent (and equally ridiculous) lawsuit involving Condé Nast and, by extension, Wintour, had a huge impact on careers as an editor at the mass media company. (We’re referring to the intern lawsuit, which ultimately led to the end of internships at Condé Nast.) So it’s nice to read a comical one that seems to have no merit and has no impact on the future of anything.
JENNIFER WILLIAMS is a recent law school graduate who writes about fashion, the legal avenues available for protecting it, and the ways in which the laws are falling short. For more from Jennifer, follow her on Twitter.