(CN) - Judicial Watch must face defamation claims from its conservative founder Larry Klayman over statements published by birther queen Orly Taitz, a federal judge ruled.
Klayman and his advocacy group Judicial Watch had entered the public sphere in 1994 with a series of lawsuits against the Clinton administration, but he stepped down in 2006 to run for U.S. Senate and now heads conservative activist group Freedom Watch.
In February 2012, Taitz had been running for Congress when she took to her website to say that Klayman was convicted for not paying child support.
A Soviet Moldova-born birther-conspiracy theorist, Taitz's extreme views have gotten her banned from Tea Party events.
She published the allegations about Klayman on Feb. 23, just one day after speaking with Judicial Watch office administrator Constance Ruffley at a meeting of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform.
When Taitz conceded on Feb. 26 that Klayman was never convicted, she blamed Ruffley for the error.
Klayman sued Judicial Watch in 2013, and Miami-based U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga refused to grant the group summary judgment on May 23.
"According to Taitz, Ruffley stated, 'Larry Klayman is not licensed in California, ... that he no longer works with Judicial Watch [,] and that donors should know about litigation in Ohio, where [Klayman] was convicted just recentl[y] of not paying large amount[s] in child support,'" Altonaga wrote.
The 24-page ruling emphasizes that "Klayman was not convicted of nonpayment of child support."
Rather he faced a 2012 indictment "in Ohio county court on two counts of criminal nonsupport for failure to pay child support from September 25, 2009 to September 24, 2011."
Judge Altonaga said "a person reading the statement at issue could reasonably understand it to implicate Klayman's moral character and professional code of ethics."
"Whether the statement actually impugns Klayman's trade or profession as an attorney, thereby constituting defamation per se
, is a matter for the jury," she added.
Though Klayman's defamation per se count will advance, the judge tossed Klayman's defamation by implication, interference with a contract and infliction of emotional distress claims.
Last year, the judge refused
to let Klayman sue the Judicial Watch officers over Taitz's statements.
In Washington, the attorney was once scolded
for his "consistent pattern of engaging in dilatory tactics" and disobedience of the court.
Klayman believes that "West Wing" character Harry Klaypool of Freedom Watch is based on him, Judge Altonage said.