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Rudolph v. Safari Club International

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 27, 2018





         Presently before the court is Defendant Safari Club International's (“Defendant” or “SCI”) motion for summary judgment. (ECF No. 74). The motion is fully briefed and ripe for disposition. Accordingly, for the reasons that follow, SCI's motion will be granted in part and denied in part.


         Plaintiff initiated this action in 2012 against SCI for allegedly defaming him.[2]

         SCI is a nonprofit organization with approximately 55, 000 members in 26 countries and its goal is protecting hunter's rights and promoting wildlife conservation. SCI has many chapters in Pennsylvania, and one of those chapters is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. SCI has approximately 320 members on its Board of Directors (“Board” or “BOD”) and a ten-member Executive Committee. The Board is comprised of Officers, Past Presidents' Counsel Members, Regional Representatives, Presidents of SCI or SCI Foundation chapters, Directors-at-Large, International Directors and Honorary International Directors. The Board holds three regular meetings each year. All SCI Officers and Board Members owe SCI a duty of loyalty, duty of care and a duty of good faith and fair dealing. SCI has a Board of Inquiry (BOI) committee of five members that is in charge of investigating and ruling on issues related to member misconduct.

         SCI's bylaws provide the following regarding membership qualifications:

D. Membership Qualifications.
Any individual, family or business subscribing to the missions, objections, purposes and policies of this Corporation, of good moral character, and demonstrating an active interest in both hunting and in wildlife conservation may be admitted to membership in the Corporation subject to the terms of these Bylaws.
E. Member in Good Standing.
A member in good standing is one who satisfies the membership qualifications, who exercises wildlife conservation principles, who is current in the payment of dues, fees and assessments to SCI and, if applicable, to one of its authorized Chapters, and who abides by the rules, regulations and qualifications of membership established by SCI or such Chapter.

         Joint Statement of Material Fact (“JSMF”) (ECF No. 91) at ¶ 6; Article III, § 1 (ECF No. 79-1 at 128).

         Plaintiff lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Plaintiff is a lifelong hunter and became a member of SCI's Pittsburgh Chapter in 1984.[3] After joining SCI's Pittsburgh Chapter, Plaintiff held the following positions within SCI including:

(1) President of the Pittsburgh Chapter;
(2) Director-at-Large, which is a Board position that enables an SCI member to become familiar with the Board and “groom” that individual for future elected positions and volunteer retention;
(3) Director of the Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF), which is SCI's 501(c)(3) organization;
(4) Chairman of SCI's Political Action Committee (“SCI-PAC”), which promotes SCI's mission and political objectives through Congressional representatives and raises funds for SCI's lobbyists;
(5) Marketing Chairman in which Plaintiff worked in conjunction with other committee members and SCI's professional staff on recruiting members, fundraising and informing the hunting community-at-large about SCI's mission;
(6) National Fundraising Chairman in which Plaintiff led the design and implementation of SCI and SCIF's fundraising efforts;
(7) Two-terms as President of SCI's Board of Directors in which Plaintiff campaigned for and was elected by the Board for two separate terms as SCI's President;
(8) Past President's Council. By virtue of his SCI presidency, Plaintiff was on the Past President's Council and therefore had life tenure as a member of the Board; and
(9) Judge for the SCI International Hunting Award.

         In addition to holding those positions within SCI, Plaintiff frequently consulted with other hunters regarding places to hunt and outfitter recommendations, belonged to other non-profit hunting and conservation organizations, was the spokesperson, President, Secretary and Treasurer of Weatherby Foundation International, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that educates the non-hunting public on the beneficial role of ethical sport hunting and its contribution to wildlife conservation, was the emcee to the Weatherby Award dinner gala, received awards for hunting and conservation, and gave speeches to and interviews with various media sources.

         On July 11, 2011, SCI and Camelback Consulting, LLC, a company owned by Plaintiff, entered into a Spokesperson/Director of Public Outreach Agreement whereby Plaintiff, under the title of “Chief Communications Officer, ” began working as the worldwide ambassador and spokesperson for SCI and its mission. As spokesperson, Plaintiff agreed to appear on behalf of SCI as ambassador and spokesperson of SCI and its purposes and missions at various events or outings such as sportsmen and hunting shows and conventions, firearms and other hunting equipment shows and expositions. In this role, Plaintiff attended and presented at various events. For example, he spoke at the United Nations on the topic of hunting, appeared on NBC/CNBC to discuss the economics of hunting in Africa, appeared on National Public Radio and was interviewed on the controversy of “preserve” or “high fenced” hunting, appeared on Channel 5 News in Phoenix, Arizona for an interview on the controversy of “captive” hunting, appeared on Fox News to discuss a “controversial” black bear hunt in New Jersey, and produced and appeared in videos SCI's annual hunters' convention and SCI's Political Action committee to advance SCI's agenda and mission.

         A. Plaintiff's Extramarital Relationships

         Plaintiff was engaged in two extramarital relationships while he held office for SCI or was on official business for SCI.[4] At some time between February and April 2011, Plaintiff attended a fundraiser in Atlanta for SCI's Atlanta Chapter where he was introduced to Ann McCoy by SCI member Paul Babaz. According to Plaintiff, Babaz wanted Plaintiff to meet McCoy and provide her with some information about traveling and hunting in Africa. After the fundraiser, Plaintiff remained in contact with McCoy and while on another trip to Atlanta, met her for dinner and cocktails and kissed McCoy “maybe twice” in the parking lot. Pl. Dep. 196:18-25, 196:2. Plaintiff and McCoy also exchanged intimate text messages.

         In the summer of 2009, Plaintiff traveled to Kenai River Classic in Alaska. He was accompanied by Lori Milliron, whom Plaintiff identified in his registration paperwork as his administrative assistant. Milliron was a dental hygienist by profession and worked for Plaintiff's dental practice at the time she accompanied him to Kenai. According to Plaintiff, Milliron accompanied him as a “medical aide” because he had a heart condition and Milliron “had some training in CPR, advanced CPR, advanced cardio life support” and knew how to use a heart defibrillator. JSMF (ECF No. 91) at ¶ 35; Pl. Dep., 185:2-12 (Tab 7). In conjunction with this trip, SCI member and Regional Representative Eddie Grasser suggested that Plaintiff meet with then-Governor Sarah Palin. Milliron accompanied Plaintiff to meet Governor Palin. Plaintiff and Milliron shared a multi-room cabin together during the Kenai River Classic. No. one else stayed in the cabin with them.

         B. Plaintiff's ...

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