Lawyers representing Memphis Grizzlies star Ja Morant in a battery lawsuit have been given tentative approval by a Tennessee judge to argue that their client was acting in self defense when he punched 17-year-old aspiring hoopster Joshua Holloway during a pickup game in July of 2022.
The future of Holloway’s lawsuit largely hinges on whether Morant will be allowed to say he was acting in self-defense.
Morant’s lawyers have acknowledged he punched Holloway one time after Holloway threw a basketball at Morant and the ball hit Morant in the chin. In a July 26 motion, the player’s lawyers said he should be immune from liability under the state’s ‘stand your ground’ law, which allows people who feel threatened at their homes to act with force in certain situations.
Circuit Court Judge Carol Chumney said the next step would be to hear from lawyers in the case, including those representing the Tennessee Attorney General, about whether the law can be applied to the case under the state Constitution.
Holloway was 17 when the lawsuit was filed. It accuses Morant and friend Davonte Pack of assault, reckless endangerment, abuse or neglect, and infliction of emotional distress. An amended complaint identified the plaintiff as Holloway, who is now 18.
Morant can proceed with a self-defense argument in the ongoing lawsuit with Joshua Holloway
Joshua Holloway, now 18, says Morant punched him during a 2022 pickup game in Tennessee
Morant filed a countersuit accusing Holloway of slander, battery and assault.
No criminal charges have been filed against Morant.
The lawsuit has led to complicated legal arguments, including disagreement about whether the state’s ‘stand your ground’ law can be used to support Morant.
In a hearing Monday, Holloway’s lawyer Rebecca Adelman argued Morant has waived his claim to immunity and that the self-defense claim under the state law can’t be a reason to dismiss the civil case, partly because there is no ongoing criminal investigation against Morant.
Adelman said the self-defense and immunity arguments came too late in the process. She called it a ‘Hail Mary of Hail Marys.’
Will Perry, Morant’s lawyer, argued there are ways for the ‘stand your ground’ law to apply in civil cases and that Morant is entitled to immunity. He said the motion was timely because the trial is not scheduled until 2024.
The incident allegedly took place during a pick up game at Morant’s mansion outside Memphis
Davonte Pack, friend of Grizzlies star Ja Morant, is held back by Tee Morant, Ja’s dad
Outside court on Wednesday, Adelman told reporters she was disappointed in the judge’s decision to allow the immunity claim to continue, but she was pleased that the court is allowing arguments on the constitutional challenge to the law’s application in the case.
‘These are … very important issues to everyone,’ Adelman said.
Holloway, who has committed to playing college basketball at Samford, discussed the countersuits with Memphis’ WREG in April.
‘When stuff comes out, I really try to ignore it because I know everybody has their opinion so I just try to stay within myself,’ Holloway said.
‘I’m not intimidated by anything. I trust God, God has my back. I have nothing to worry about. I’m still going to reach my goal no matter what.’
Ja Morant was banned for 25 games for his second pistol-waving video on social media
No criminal charges have been filed against Morant. Lawyers defending Morant and Pack in the lawsuit didn’t immediately respond to calls and emails seeking comment on the warrant.
Chumney, the judge, has issued a stay in the case, which means depositions, subpoenas, exchanging of evidence and other steps in the lawsuit are on hold. She set an October 12 hearing on the matter.
The NBA suspended Morant for 25 games when the upcoming season starts after a second video of him flashing a handgun was posted online. The video of Morant showing a gun while sitting in the passenger seat of a car was posted after he finished serving an eight-game suspension in March for a video in which he flashed a handgun in a Denver-area strip club.
Morant apologized for both videos.
On Monday — a year after the pickup game at Morant’s house in Eads — authorities issued an arrest warrant on a misdemeanor assault charge for Pack in connection with the fight.
Earlier this year, Morant held a pistol up on Instagram while visiting a Denver strip club
Last month, Grizzlies general manager Zach Kleiman said the 25-game suspension the NBA slapped Morant with ‘was appropriate,’ and it is up to Morant to change the behavior that led to two bans in four months.
The Grizzlies’ vice president of basketball operations made the comments after Thursday night’s NBA draft.
Kleiman said the latest incident is part of a pattern of ‘problematic behavior’ for Morant, the No. 2 overall pick in 2019 and the 2020 Rookie of the Year.
‘At this point, it doesn’t matter until he follows through,’ Kleiman said. ‘I couldn’t care less about words. Ja has to prove it.’