Judge Affirms Ja Morant’s Self-defense Claim In Lawsuit Ruling

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – JUNE 18: Ja Morant debuts a new pair of custom JBL headphones at JBL Full-Court Press, an exclusive panel discussion with professional basketball players and top pick draftees moderated by Jay Williams of The Players’ Tribune. The event was held at the HARMAN Store on June 18, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for JBL)

In a significant victory for Ja Morant, a Tennessee judge ruled on Monday that the Memphis Grizzlies star was justified in raising a self-defense claim in response to a lawsuit filed against him by a teenager he punched in July 2022, according to documents obtained by ESPN.

This ruling follows a civil immunity hearing held in December 2023 in Memphis, during which Morant testified that he acted in self-defense when he threw the first punch at Joshua Holloway, who was 17 at the time. Holloway had filed a lawsuit in September 2022 accusing Morant of assault stemming from an altercation that occurred during a pickup basketball game.

The incident unfolded when Holloway, reportedly frustrated after losing multiple games, threw a pass at Morant’s face during a check-ball situation. Morant asserted that Holloway then advanced towards him, prompting Morant to step forward and punch him.

Subsequently, Morant’s friend, Davonte Pack, also punched Holloway, leading to Pack’s arrest for misdemeanor assault. Pack’s charge was later dismissed.

In the recent court filing, Shelby County Circuit Judge Carol Chumney ruled that Morant is entitled to civil immunity under Tennessee’s self-defense statute. The burden of proof now shifts to Holloway and his legal team to demonstrate that Morant did not act in self-defense. Although a trial was scheduled to commence in late April, it is anticipated to be postponed to a later date.

“We’re disappointed, and we will continue to take the steps necessary to protect and advocate for Joshua,” said Rebecca Adelman, Holloway’s attorney, in response to the ruling. Morant’s attorneys did not immediately provide a comment when reached for response.

This lawsuit has loomed over Morant throughout a tumultuous 2023-24 season. He began the season with a 25-game suspension imposed by the NBA for behavior deemed detrimental to the league, following the circulation of a video on social media in May 2023 showing Morant with a firearm.

In March 2023, Morant received an eight-game suspension for displaying a handgun on Instagram Live at a Denver nightclub. Morant publicly apologized for both incidents.

After returning from his 25-game suspension in December 2023, Morant played just nine games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury.

Morant’s strong performance, with averages of 25.1 points, 8.1 assists, and 5.6 rebounds, was overshadowed by his absence and injuries to teammates. The Grizzlies finished with a disappointing 27-51 record, ranking third-worst in the Western Conference.