Arianna Huffington’s Colorful Court History

Arianna Huffington’s current legal battle over the rights to the idea for the Huffington Post isn’t her first encounter with the court system. Of course, anyone who makes it big in America gets sued at least once or twice along the way. But the Greek emigre’s legal tangles are a little more exotic than some others. We’ve collected the highlights.

I Did Not Have Sex With That President

The case: Huffington’s first big encounter with American justice grew out of the bizarre story of a disgraced U.S. ambassador whose body was disinterred from Arlington Cemetery because he lied about serving in the WWII merchant marine. In 1998, his young widow sued Huffington, a syndication outfit and the National Enquirer for $25 million each for reporting that she had procured the ambassadorship by sleeping with President Bill Clinton.

The widow later dropped the cases against the publishers in order to focus on Huffington, expressing hope that the then-conservative commentator would never again “be able to cause the pain, the suffering and the despair to someone else that she has caused me.”

The result: The case was resolved in 2000.

Intentional Personal Injury On Chauffeur

The case: In 2001, the New York Daily News broke the story that a Los Angeles limousine driver was suing Huffington over an alleged assault. Chauffeur Zakhar Kagramanyan claimed that he suffered physical and mental distress after Huffington beat him with his own cell phone. The journalist described the suit as a “laughable thing.”

The result: The case went to alternative dispute resolution the following year.

Divorce Court

The case: Arianna Huffington (nee Stasinopoulos) said she would divorce Michael Huffington in 1997 after the California multi-millionaire and former Congressman told her that he was bisexual. The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) reported at the time that the journalist would live in a new multimillion-dollar home she obtained as part of the divorce settlement.

The result: An attorney told the LA Times that the divorce was “one of the most amicable” she had ever seen, but court records show that Michael Huffington filed a complaint against his ex-wife in 2002 related to a “foreign support order” (court language that usually refers to child support). The court record suggests the two settled the case four years later. Since the divorce, Michael Huffington became a leader of the Log Cabin Republicans and successful film-maker.

Do As I Say Not As I Do

The case: Shortly after the Huffington Post was bought by AOL (NYSE: AOL) earlier this year, author and provocateur Jonathan Tasini filed a class-action suit that accuses Huffington of exploiting hundreds of unpaid bloggers who wrote for the site. The unjust enrichment suit claims that Tasini and 9,000 writers were responsible for creating at least $105 million of the website’s $315 million in value. Tasini, who brought a successful copyright class action against the New York Times a decade ago, also quotes from Huffington’s recent “Third World America” book and states that the liberal media icon is “exacerbating the inequalities she seeks to redress.”

The result: A federal court in Manhattan is currently considering a motion to dismiss the complaint.

Origins of Specious?

The case: Huffington legal adventures made headlines again this week after a New York state judge refused to throw out a case by two political consultants who say she stole their idea for a “new kind of Democratic news-reporting website and blogging ‘ring’ or collective.” In a story that has echoes of Mark Zuckerberg and the Winklevii, the consultants say they spent two days hatching plans at Huffington’s house in 2005 but that she and her partner then cynically cut them out of the loop in order to launch a site based on their ideas.

The result: A spokesperson for Huffington Post described the lawsuit as laughable, while a lawyer for the plaintiffs say this week’s ruling will allow them to “bring the truth to light.” Barring a settlement, the case is set to go before a jury in the coming year.