May 19, 2024
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Lonna Ralbag, Longtime Agunah, Wins Dismissal Of Defamation Lawsuit

(Courtesy of Gibson Dunn) For more than 20 years, Lonna Ralbag has been an agunah—a “chained woman.” Although she filed for civil divorce from her husband more than twenty years ago, he has refused to grant her a valid get, a document in Jewish religious law that effectuates a couple’s religious divorce. Nearly 10 years ago, her ex-husband civilly remarried, while still refusing to grant Ralbag a get from a valid rabbinical court. Since then, Ralbag has advocated nationally for her religious divorce, organizing protests and pickets, and petitioning successfully to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and its Supreme Court to prevent her ex-husband and his family from being buried in Israel unless her ex-husband grants her a valid get.

In December of 2022, members of her ex-husband’s family sued Ralbag for defamation in New York State Supreme Court, arguing that her public advocacy wrongly accused them of supporting her ex-husband’s get-denial. The law firm Gibson Dunn represented Ralbag pro bono in the case, filing a motion to dismiss.

On August 1, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ralbag, dismissing all claims against her in their entirety on the grounds that plaintiffs failed to state a claim for defamation or any other cause of action.

“This lawsuit was nothing more than an attempt to harass Ms. Ralbag and prevent her from continuing to exercise her First Amendment right to advocate for her get and for justice for all agunahs,” said Akiva Shapiro, Ralbag’s lead attorney at Gibson Dunn. “While we cannot rest until Ms. Ralbag receives an unconditional get, she and other agunahs will at least now be better protected from efforts to intimidate and silence them in the form of baseless defamation suits.”

In addition to Shapiro, the Gibson Dunn team included associates Dillon Westfall, Brian Yeh, Apratim Vidyarthi and Graham Ellis.

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