Veronica Islas and Tomoe Yoshihara look at the legal and ethical issues around suing protesters so they keep their mouth shut. The Mclibel case is one the most famous examples of an abuse of the judicial system to serve corporate interests. Anti-slapp legislation is in the works in certain jurisdictions. Sometimes the truth hurts and sometimes the long arm of the law gives democracy a slapp in the face.
Attorney Lawrence Walters Comments on SLAPP Suits and Free Speech Concerns
In this news segment, First Amendment Attorney Lawrence Walters discusses the legal concerns surrounding the posting of critical comments online and the potential legal action that can result. Specific attention is focused on a defamation lawsuit brought by a doctor against the poster of critical comments.
A GOOD EXAMPLE OF LAWSUIT THREATS BY A 1 PERCENTER
John Oliver’s Spectacular Trump Takedownhttps://agreenroad.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/john-olivers-spectacular-trump-takedown/
At the end of this video, John Oliver says that he expects a lawsuit from Trump..
WHAT IS A SLAPP LAWSUIT?
Wikipedia; “A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit
that is intended to censor
, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense
until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impedefreedom of speech
The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs
or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost ofdirectors and officers liability insurance
for that party, interfering with an organization’s ability to operate.
A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat
There is a difficulty in that plaintiffs do not present themselves to the Court admitting that their intent is to censor, intimidate or silence their critics. Hence, the difficulty in drafting SLAPP legislation, and in applying it, is to craft an approach which affords an early termination to invalid abusive suits, without denying a legitimate day in court to valid good faith
claims. Thus, anti-SLAPP laws target tactics used by SLAPP plaintiffs. Common anti-SLAPP laws include measures such as penalties for plaintiffs who file lawsuits ruled frivolous and special procedures where a defendant may ask a judge to consider that a lawsuit is a SLAPP (and usually subsequently dismiss the suit).
Anti-SLAPP laws occasionally come under criticism from those who believe that there should not be barriers to the right to petition
for those who sincerely believe they have been wronged, regardless of ulterior motives. Nonetheless, anti-SLAPP are generally considered to have a favorable effect, and many lawyers have fought to enact stronger laws protecting against SLAPPs.
SLAPPs take various forms. The most common used to be a civil suit for defamation
, which in the English common law
tradition was a tort
. The common law of libel
dates to the early 17th century and (unusual in English law) is reverse onus
, meaning, once someone alleges a statement is libelous, the burden was on the defendant to prove that it is not.
In England and Wales, the Defamation Act 2013
removed most of the uses of defamation as a SLAPP by requiring the proof of special damage. Various abusive uses of this law including political libel (criticism of the political actions or views of others) have ceased to exist in most places, but persist in some jurisdictions (notably British Columbia and Ontario) where political views can be held as defamatory.
A common feature of SLAPPs is forum shopping
, wherein plaintiffs find courts that are more favourable towards the claims to be brought than the court in which the defendant (or sometimes plaintiffs) live.
Other widely mentioned elements of a SLAPP are the actual effectiveness at silencing critics, the timing of the suit, inclusion of extra or spurious defendants (such as relatives or hosts of legitimate defendants), inclusion of plaintiffs with no real claim (such as corporations that are affiliated with legitimate plaintiffs), making claims that are very difficult to disprove or rely on no written record, ambiguous or deliberately mangled wording that lets plaintiffs make spurious allegations without fear of perjury
, refusal to consider any settlement (or none other than cash), characterization of all offers to settle as insincere, extensive and unnecessary demands for discovery
, attempts to identify anonymous or pseudonymous
critics, appeals on minor points of law, demands for broad rulings when appeal is accepted on such minor points of law, and attempts to run up defendants’ costs even if this clearly costs more to the plaintiffs.
Several jurisdictions have passed anti-SLAPP laws, designed to quickly remove cases out of court. In many cases, the plaintiff is also required to pay a penalty for bringing the case, known as a SLAPP-back.
was coined in the 1980s by University of Denver
professors Penelope Canan
and George W. Pring
The term was originally defined as “a lawsuit involving communications made to influence a governmental action or outcome, which resulted in a civil complaint or counterclaim filed against nongovernment individuals or organizations on a substantive issue of some public interest or social significance.”
The concept’s originators later dropped the notion that government contact had to be about a public issue to be protected by the Right to Petition
the Government, as provided in the First Amendment
. It has since been defined less broadly by some states, and more broadly in one state (California) where it includes suits about speech on any public issue. 
The original conceptualization proffered by Canan and Pring emphasized the right to petition as protected in the United States under the US Constitution’s specific protection in the First Amendment’s fifth clause. It is still definitional: SLAPPs refer to civil lawsuits filed against those who have communicated to government officialdom (in its entire constitutional apparatus).
The Right to Petition, granted by Edgar the Peaceful
, King of England in the 10th century, antedates the Magna Carta
in terms of its significance in the development of democratic institutions. As currently conceived, the right claims that democracy cannot properly function in the presence of barriers between the governed and the governing.
New York Supreme Court
Judge J. Nicholas Colabella, in reference to SLAPPs: “Short of a gun to the head, a greater threat to First Amendment expression can scarcely be imagined.” Gordon v. Morrone, 590 N.Y.S.2d 649, 656 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 1992). A number of jurisdictions have made such suits illegal, provided that the appropriate standards of journalistic responsibility
have been met by the critic.
In the Australian Capital Territory
, the Protection of Public Participation Act 2008 protects conduct intended to influence public opinion or promote or further action in relation to an issue of public interest. A party starting or maintaining a proceeding against a defendant for an improper purpose may be ordered to pay a financial penalty to the Territory.
Some political libel
and forum shopping
incidents, both common in Canada, have been called SLAPPs, because such suits load defendants with costs of responding in unfamiliar jurisdictions or at times (typically elections) when they’re extremely busy and short of funds. Both types of suits are almost unique to Canada, so there is little academic concern nor examination of whether political subject matter or remote forums are a clear indicator of SLAPP.
One of the first cases in Canada to be explicitly ruled a SLAPP was Fraser v. Saanich (see  B.C.J. No. 3100 (B.C. S.C.)) (QL), where the British Columbia Supreme Court struck out the claim of a hospital director against the District of Saanich, holding that it was a meritless action designed to silence or intimidate the residents who were opposed to the plaintiff’s plan to redevelop the hospital facilities.
The defendants’ application to dismiss the action against them was dismissed. The defendants failed to meet the burden of proof required by the PPPA, that the plaintiffs had no reasonable prospect of success. While it was not the subject of the case, some felt that the plaintiffs did not bring their action for an improper purpose, and the suit did not inhibit the defendants in their public criticism of the particular project, and that the Act was therefore ineffective in this case.
A private member’s bill
introduced in 2001 by Graham Steele
(NDP, Halifax Fairview
) proposed a “Protection of Public Participation Act” to dismiss proceedings or claims brought or maintained for an improper purpose, awarding punitive or exemplary damages (effectively, a SLAPP back) and protection from liability for communication or conduct which constitutes public participation. The bill did not progress beyond first reading.
In Ontario, the decision in Daishowa v. Friends of the Lubicon (see  O.J. No. 3855 Ont. Ct. Gen. Div.) (QL) was also instructive on SLAPPs. A motion brought by the corporate plaintiff Daishowa to impose conditions on the defendant Friends of the Lubicon Indian Band that they would not represent Daishowa’s action as a SLAPP was dismissed.
By 2010, the Ontario Attorney-General issued a major report which identified SLAPP as a major problem
but initially little or nothing was done.
In June, 2013, the Attorney General introduced legislation to implement the recommendations of the report; that bill was re-introduced after the 2014 election
. As of 2014, Bill 83, the Protection of Public Participation Act (2014), has been referred to the Standing Committee on Social Policy and is not yet law.
The bill proposes a mechanism for an order to dismiss strategic lawsuits which attack free expression on matters of public interest, with full costs (but not punitive damages) and on a relatively short timeframe, if the underlying claims have no reasonable prospect of success.
In October 2015, Ontario passed the Protection of Public Participation Act, 2015.
Québec’s then Justice Minister, Jacques Dupuis, proposed an anti-SLAPP bill on June 13, 2008. 
The bill was adopted by the National Assembly of Quebec
on June 3, 2009. As of September 2013, Quebec’s amended Code of Civil Procedure is the only anti-SLAPP mechanism in force in Canada.
This bill was invoked in Ontario (and then Supreme Court of Canada
docket 33819) in the case of Les Éditions Écosociété Inc., Alain Deneault
, Delphine Abadie
Inc., in which the publisher Écosociété pled (supported by the BCCLA 
) that it should not face Ontario liability for a publication in Quebec, as the suit was a SLAPP and the Quebec law explicitly provided to dismiss these.
The court denied the request, ruling that the Ontario court did have jurisdiction.
A separate 2011 decision in Quebec Superior Court had ruled that Barrick Gold
had to pay $143,000 to the book’s three authors and publisher, Les Éditions Écosociété Inc., to prepare their defence in a “seemingly abusive” strategic lawsuit against public participation.
Despite the Québec ruling, a book “Noir Canada” documenting the relationship between Canadian mining corporations, armed conflict and political actors in Africa was never published as part of a settlement which, according to the authors, was only made for the sole purpose of resolving the three-and-a-half year legal battle.
The Quebec law is substantially different in structure than that of California
or other jurisdictions, however as Quebec’s Constitution generally subordinates itself to international law
, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
applies. That treaty only permits liability for arbitrary and unlawful speech. The ICCPR has also been cited, in the BC case Crookes v. Newton, as the standard for balancing free speech versus reputation rights. The Supreme Court of Canada in October 2011, ruling in that case, neither reiterated nor rescinded that standard.
Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have enacted statutory protections against SLAPPs.
These states are Arizona
, New Mexico
, New York
, Rhode Island
, and Washington
. In Colorado
and West Virginia
, the courts have adopted protections against SLAPPs. These laws vary dramatically in scope and level of protection, and the remaining states lack specific protections.
There is no federal anti-SLAPP law. The extent to which state laws apply in federal courts is unclear, and the circuits are split on the question. The First
circuits have allowed litigants from Maine, Louisiana and California, respectively, to use their state’s special motion in federal district courts
in diversity actions. The D.C. Circuit
has held the reverse for D.C. litigants.
It has been argued that the lack of uniform protection against SLAPPs has encouraged forum shopping
; proponents of federal legislation have argued that the uncertainty about one’s level of protection has likely magnified the chilling effect
In December 2009, Rep. Steve Cohen
–Tennessee) introduced the Citizen Participation Act in the U.S. House.
This marks the first time the Congress has considered federal anti-SLAPP legislation, though the Congress enacted the SPEECH Act
on the closely related issue of libel tourism
Like many state anti-SLAPP laws, H.R. 4364 would allow the defendant of a SLAPP to have the suit quickly dismissed and to recover fees and costs.
California has a unique variant of anti-SLAPP legislation which has led to a significant volume of SLAPP litigation in that state. A search for reported cases on SLAPP litigation in 2009 found 1,386 cases for the State of California alone.
The rest of the states combined had about 341, of which Massachusetts accounted for 176, raising the question whether California’s SLAPP statute is accomplishing its primary objective of reducing costly litigation.
The U.S. state
enacted Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16 in 1992, a statute
intended to frustrate SLAPPs by providing a quick and inexpensive defense.
It provides for a special motion that a defendant
can file at the outset of a lawsuit to strike a complaint
when it arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition
or free speech
. The statute expressly applies to any writing or speech made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, but there is no requirement that the writing or speech be promulgated directly to the official body. It also applies to speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest and to any other petition or speech conduct about an issue of public interest.
To win an anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant must first show that the lawsuit is based on claims related to constitutionally protected activities
, typically First Amendment
rights such as free speech
, and typically seeks to show that the claim lacks any basis of genuine substance, legal underpinnings, evidence, or prospect of success. If this is demonstrated then the burden
shifts to the plaintiff, to affirmatively present evidence demonstrating a reasonable probability of succeeding in their case by showing an actual wrong would exist as recognized by law, if the facts claimed were borne out.
The filing of an anti-SLAPP motion stays all discovery
. This feature acts to greatly reduce the cost of litigation to the anti-SLAPP defendant, and can make beating the motion extremely difficult for the plaintiff, because they effectively must prove their case has at least a basis of visible legal merit and is not merely vexatious
, prior to discovery.
If the special motion is denied, the order denying the motion is immediately appealable
. Defendants prevailing on an anti-SLAPP motion (including any subsequent appeal) are entitled to a mandatory award of reasonable attorney’s fees. After an anti-SLAPP motion has been filed, a plaintiff cannot escape this mandatory fee award by amending its complaint. More than 300 published court opinions have interpreted and applied California’s anti-SLAPP law.
California’s Code of Civil Procedure § 425.17 corrects what the Legislature found to be abuse of the anti-SLAPP statute.
Signed into law on September 6, 2003, this statute prohibits anti-SLAPP motions in response to certain public interest lawsuits and class actions, and actions that arise from commercial statements or conduct. Section 425.18, signed into law on October 6, 2005, was enacted to facilitate SLAPP victims in recovering their damages through a SLAPPback (malicious prosecution action) against the SLAPP filers and their attorneys after the underlying SLAPP has been dismissed.
Balancing the right of access to the courts
The SLAPP penalty stands as a barrier to access to the courts by providing an early penalty to claimants who seek judicial redress. In recent years, the courts in some states have recognized that enforcement of SLAPP legislation must recognize and balance the constitutional rights of both litigants. It has been said:
Since Magna Carta
, the world has recognized the importance of justice in a free society. “To no one will we sell, to no one will we refuse or delay, right or justice.” (Magna Carta, 1215.) This nation’s founding fathers knew people would never consent to be governed and surrender their right to decide disputes by force, unless government offered a just forum for resolving those disputes.
The right to bring grievances to the courts, in good faith, is protected by state and federal constitutions in a variety of ways. In most states, the right to trial by jury in civil cases is recognized. The right to cross-examine witnesses is considered fundamental to the American judicial system.
Moreover, the first amendment protects the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. The “right to petition extends to all departments of the Government. The right of access to the courts is indeed but one aspect of the right of petition.”
Because “the right to petition is ‘among the most precious of the liberties safeguarded by the Bill of Rights
,’ … the right of access to the courts shares this ‘preferred place’ in our hierarchy of constitutional freedoms and values.
This balancing question is resolved differently in different states, often with substantial difficulty.
In Palazzo v. Alves, the Supreme Court of Rhode Island stated:
By the nature of their subject matter, anti-SLAPP statutes require meticulous drafting. On the one hand, it is desirable to seek to shield citizens from improper intimidation when exercising their constitutional right to be heard with respect to issues of public concern. On the other hand, it is important that such statutes be limited in scope lest the constitutional right of access to the courts (whether by private figures, public figures, or public officials) be improperly thwarted. There is a genuine double-edged challenge to those who legislate in this area.
The most challenging balancing problem arises in application to SLAPP claims which do not sound (give rise to a claim) in tort
. The common law
and constitutional law
have developed in the United States to create a high substantive burden to tort and tort-like claims which seek redress for public speech
, especially public speech which addresses matters of public concern.
The common law in many states requires the pleader to state accurately the content of libelous
words. Constitutional law has provided substantive protection which bars recovery against a first amendment defense except upon clear and convincing evidence that there has been deliberate or reckless falsehood. For this reason, ferreting out the bad faith
SLAPP claim at an early stage of litigation should be accomplished with relative ease. Extension of the SLAPP penalties to factually complex cases, where the substantive standard of proof at common law is lower presents special challenges.
A Minnesota Supreme Court case, Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers Watershed Dist. v. Stengrim, 784 N.W.2d 834 (Minn. 2010) establishes a two-step process to determine whether SLAPP procedure should be applied. The decision arises in the context of an effort to enforce a settlement agreement between a local government and an opponent of a flood control project.
The landowner had accepted a significant monetary settlement in settlement of his opposition to land acquisition. The landowner agreed as part of the settlement to address no further challenges to the project. When the local government sued the landowner for breach of settlement, the landowner contended that enforcement of the settlement was a strategic lawsuit against public participation.
The Supreme Court rejected that claim and affirmed the District Court’s denial of SLAPP relief, holding “The District Court properly denied a motion to dismiss where the underlying claim involved an alleged breach of a settlement agreement that potentially limited the moving party’s rights to public participation.” The Supreme Court explained:
Preexisting legal relationships, such as those based on a settlement agreement where a party waives certain rights, may legitimately limit a party’s public participation. It would be illogical to read sections 554.01-.05 as providing presumptive immunity to actions that a moving party may have contractually agreed to forgo or limit.
Under the Minnesota approach, as a preliminary matter, the moving party must meet the burden of showing that the circumstances which bring the case within the purview of SLAPP protection exists. Until that has been accomplished, no clear and convincing burden has been shifted to the responding party.
Balancing the Right to Petition Government
Government use of anti-SLAPP statutes to obtain early termination of citizen lawsuits challenging government action, attorney fee awards and statutory penalties presents a problem of balancing both a citizen’s right of access to the courts and the right to petition government for redress against the particular government interest challenged.
The originators of the SLAPP concept did not include government official defendants.
The idea that a statute designed to bolster an individual right may be used by government agencies to shut down and penalize private citizens for exercising a First Amendment right to challenge government action has been criticized.
The states are divided on the question of whether anti-SLAPP statutes may be used by government actors. (Compare, Segaline v. Department of Labor & Indus., 238 P.3d 1107,1110 (Wa.2010)(rejecting government use of anti-SLAPP protections)and Vargas v. City of Salinas, 46 Cal.4th 1 (Cal. 2009) (holding government agents may use the anti-SLAPP statute where their statements that are the basis for the lawsuit would be protected “if those statements were made by a private individual or entity.”)
“: In the 2005 Gunns Limited v Marr & Ors case, Gunns
filed a writ
in the Supreme Court of Victoria
, against 20 individuals and organisations including Senator Bob Brown
, for over A$7.8 million .
The defendants have become collectively known as the “Gunns 20”.
Gunns claimed that the defendants sullied its reputation and caused it to lose jobs and profits. The defendants claimed that they are protecting the environment.
Opponents and critics of the case have suggested that the writ was filed with the intent to discourage public criticism of the company. Gunns has maintained the position that they were merely trying to prevent parties enjoined to the writ from undertaking unlawful activities that disrupt their business. The statement of claim alleged incidents of assault against forestry workers and vandalism.
At a hearing before the Supreme Court of Victoria
, an amended statement of claim lodged by the company and served on defendants on 1 July 2005 was dismissed.
However, the judge in the case granted the company leave to lodge a third version of their statement of claim with the court no later than 15 August 2005.
The application continued before the court, before being brought to a close on 20 October 2006.
In his ruling, the Honourable Justice Bongiorno made an award of costs in favour of the respondents only as far as it covered those costs incurred with striking out the third version of the statement of claim, and costs incurred associated with their application for costs.
In November 2006, Gunns dropped the case against Helen Gee, Peter Pullinger and Doctors for Forests. In December 2006, it abandoned the claim against Greens
MPs Bob Brown and Peg Putt
The other matters were all settled in favour of Gunns following the payment of more than $150,000 in damages or, in some cases, undertakings to the court not to protest at certain locations.
Then TKCSA sued Alexandre Pessoa Dias, research professor of the Joaquim Venâncio Polytechnic School of Health (EPSJV – Fiocruz) and the biologist Monica Cristina Lima, from Pedro Ernesto University Hospital and board member of the Public University Workers Union of Rio de Janeiro State (Sintuperj). The last two lawsuits occurred after the disclosure of the technical report “Evaluation of social, environmental and health impacts caused by the setup and operation of TKCSA in Santa Cruz”.
Daishowa Inc. v. Friends of the Lubicon, from 1995 to 1998 a series of judgements [OJ 1536 1995] [OJ 1429 1998 (ONGD)] established that defendants, who had accused a global company of engaging in “genocide
“, were entitled to recover court costs
due to the public interest in the criticism, even if it was rhetorically unjustifiable. This was the first case to establish clearly the SLAPP criteria.
Fraser v. Saanich (District) 1995, [BCJ 3100 BCSC] was held explicitly to be a SLAPP, the first known case to be so described. Justice Singh found plaintiff’s conduct to be “reprehensible and deserving of censure”, ordering he pay “special costs” [page 48, Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: The British Columbia Experience, RECEIL 19(1) 2010 ISSN 0962-8797
] to compensate.
In 2011, in Robin Scory v. Glen Valley Watersheds Society, a BC court ruled that “an order for special costs acts as a deterrent to litigants whose purpose is to interfere with the democratic process,” and that “Public participation and dissent is an important part of our democratic system.”
However, such awards remained rare.
Crookes v. Openpolitics.ca, filed May 2006 [S063287, Supreme Court of BC], and a series of related suits leading to a unanimous October 2011 ruling by theSupreme Court of Canada
in Crookes v. Newton upholding the rights of online debaters to link freely to third parties without fear of liability for contents at the other end of the link.
A number of related rulings had previously established that transient comments on the Internet could not be, in themselves, simply printed and used to prove that “publication” had occurred for purposes of libel and defamation law in Canada. Other elements of the ruling clarified howresponsible journalism
(and therefore the right to protect anonymous sources
), qualified privilege
and innocent dissemination
defenses applied to persons accused of online defamation.
In May 2010, Youthdale Treatment Centres
of Toronto, Ontario filed a defamation suit against various former patients, parents of former patients, and other persons, claiming C$5,000,000.00 in damages.[citation needed
] The lawsuit, filed on May 5, 2010 on behalf of Youthdale by Harvin Pitch and Jennifer Lake of Teplitsky,
Colson LLP claimed that these persons were involved in a conspiracy to, among other things, have Youthdale’s licence to operate revoked. Youthdale also claimed their reputation was damaged as a result of various actions by the named defendants, which Youthdale alleged included the creation of websites and blogs containing complaints against Youthdale, including alleged accusations of unlawful administration of psychotropic medications.
A notable left-turn for Youthdale occurred in July 2010, when Youthdale became the subject of a Toronto Star
investigation, in which it was found that Youthdale had been admitting children to its Secure Treatment Unit that did not have mental disorders.
The case has since been dismissed.
Businesspeople Garth Drabinsky
and Conrad Black
filed numerous suits against critics of their business activities. These received much publicity but were usually settled quickly.
This, the Liberals and most commentators and authorities agreed, would be a serious crime if proven. Harper alleged the tape had been altered but a court found no evidence of this. The suit was dropped by Michael Ignatieff
after he replaced Stephane Dion
as Leader of the Opposition, and so was not heard in court, but was transparently a (successful) effort to get the trucks off the streets.
In September 2014, Brampton, Ontario
mayor Susan Fennell
used threats of legal action
against fellow councillors, the Toronto Star
, the city’s integrity commissioner and auditor Deloitte
to delay a city council meeting which was to discuss a major spending scandal.
As the parties involved needed an opportunity to seek legal advice, regardless of the merit (or spuriousness) of the claims, this tactic served to defer a key debate which otherwise would have, and should have, taken place before the city’s October 27 municipal election.
Morris vs Johnson et al. October 22, 2012 ONSC 5824 (CanLII): During the final weeks of the 2010 municipal election in Aurora, Ontario a group town councilors and the incumbent Mayor agreed to use town funds in order to launch what was later referenced as a private lawsuit fronted by the Mayor, seeking $6M, against both named and anonymous residents who were critical of the local government.
After the mayor and a number of councilors lost the election the new town council cut public funding for the private lawsuit and they issued a formal apology to the defendants. Almost one year after the town cut funding and after Morris lost a Norwich motion, Morris discontinued her case. The discontinuance cost decision delivered by Master Hawkins reads, per para. 32 (Ontario Superior court of Justice court file no.10-CV-412021): “Because I regard this action as SLAPP litigation designed to stifle debate about Mayor Morris’ fitness for office, commenced during her re-election campaign,
I award Johnson and Hogg special enhanced costs as was done in Scory v. Krannitz 2011 BCSC 1344 per Bruce J. at para. 31 (B.C.S.C).” Morris subsequently sued the town for $250,000 in the spring of 2013 in order to recover her legal costs for the period after the town cut funding of her case. Almost one and a half years after the final ruling in the Morris defamation case (i.e. the second Master Hawkins cost ruling delivered in January 2013) and approximately one year after suing the town, Morris amended her statement of claim to note that her legal costs were actually $27,821.46 and not the $250,000 as noted in the initial statement of claim. Morris then attempted to move the case to small claims court after the town had already spent over $150,000 in preparing its defense. As of the summer of 2015 the case is ongoing.
In 2010 and 2011, a French blogger was summoned twice by the communication company Cometik over exposing their quick-selling method (a.k.a. one shot method) and suggesting a financial compensation for his first trial.
The company’s case was dismissed twice, but appealed both times. On March 31, 2011, the company won: the censorship of any reference (of its name) on Mathias Poujol-Rost′s weblog, €2,000 as damages, the obligation to publish the judicial decision for 3 months, €2,000 as procedural allowance, all legal fees for both first and appeal instances.
In 2006, Oricon Inc.
, Japan’s music chart provider, sued freelance journalist Hiro Ugaya due to his suggesting in an article for business and culture magazine Cyzo
that the company was fiddling its statistics to benefit certain management companies and labels, specifically Johnny and Associates
. The company sought 50 millionyen
and apology from him.
He found allies in the magazine’s editor-in-chief Tadashi Ibi,
lawyer Kentaro Shirosaki,
and Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)
He was found guilty in 2008 by the Tokyo District Court
and ordered to pay one million yen
, but he appealed and won. Oricon did not appeal later. His 33-month struggle against Oricon and his research on SLAPPs through his self-expense trip in the United States
was featured on the TBS
Reportage, titled as “Legal Intimidation Against Free Speech: What is SLAPP?”
RSF expressed its support to the journalist and was relieved on the abandonment of the suit.
In December 2015 James McGibney
was hit with $1 million in court sanctions and over $300,000 in attorney’s fees for filing a series of groundless defamation lawsuits against people in Texas that were also filed simultaneously in both federal and state court in California. This makes it the largest award in the four year history of the Texas anti-SLAPP statute and the largest sanctions award in United States history.
In January 2012, Town of Kent NY official George Baum filed a SLAPP lawsuit against local preservationists (Putnam County Civil Supreme, #000049/2012), including Highlands Preservation, to silence their criticism of his protection of destructive vandals as he sought to renew his permit stewardship agreements with New York State and New York City. The lawsuit continued until Baum had succeeded in obtaining those permit renewals, but was dropped just before the trial phase, a common tactic by SLAPP filers who know they cannot prevail in court.
In December 2010, prominent foreclosure defense attorney Matthew Weidner was sued by Nationwide Title, a foreclosure processing firm.
In 2004, RadioShack
Corporation sued Bradley D. Jones, the webmaster of RadioShackSucks.com and a former RadioShack dealer for 17 years, in an attempt to suppress online discussion of a class action
lawsuit in which more than 3,300 current or former RadioShack managers were alleging the company required them to work long hours without overtime pay.
Nationally syndicated talk radio host Tom Martino
prevailed in an anti-SLAPP motion in 2009 after he was sued for libel by a watercraft retailer. The case received national attention for its suggestion that no one reasonably expects
objective facts from a typical talk show host, who is often a comedian telling jokes.
Kim Shewalter and other neighborhood activists, as defendants, won a 1998 anti-SLAPP motion against apartment building owners. The owners had filed a SLAPP because of the defendants’ protest activities.
Barry King and another Internet poster, as defendants, won an anti-SLAPP motion against corporate plaintiffs based on critical posts on an Internet financial message board.
Kathi Mills won an anti-SLAPP motion against the Atlanta Humane Society, Atlanta Humane Society v. Mills, in Gwinnett County (Georgia) Superior Court; case 01-A-13269-1
She had been sued based on comments she made to an internet forum after a news program had aired critical of the AHS.
In part, the judge ruled that private citizens do not need to investigate news coverage before they make their own comments on it. Also that governmental entities may not sue for defamation.
But in 1999, Winner, along with a psychologist/whistleblower, and several citizens were SLAPPed for criticizing the guardian ad litem
system and a former judge in South Carolina. Winner’s report, “Findings on Judicial Practices & Court-appointed Personnel In The Family Courts In Dorchester, Charleston & Berkeley Counties, South Carolina” and citizen demonstrations led to the first laws in South Carolina to establish minimum standards and licensing requirements for guardians ad litem — who represent the interests of children in court cases.
The retaliatory SLAPPs have been dragging on for nearly 10 years, with judgments totaling more than $11 million against the co-defendants collectively. Reflecting the retaliatory nature of these suits, at least one of the co-defendants is still waiting to find out from the judges which particular statements, if any, he made were false.
In March 2009, MagicJack
(a company who promotes a USB VOIP device) filed a defamation suit against Boing Boing
for exposing their unfair and deceptive business tactics regarding their EULA
, visitor counter, and 30 day trial period. This was dismissed as a SLAPP by a California judge in late 2009. In the resulting ruling, MagicJack was made responsible for most of Boing Boing’s legal cost.
In the 2009 case Comins vs. VanVoorhis, a Florida man named Christopher Comins filed a defamation suit against a University of Florida graduate student after the student blogged about a video of Comins repeatedly shooting someone’s pet dogs. This was cited as an example of a SLAPP by the radio show On the Media
In November 2010, filmmaker Fredrik Gertten, as defendant, won an anti-SLAPP motion after he was sued for defamation by Dole Fruit Company. The case concerned Gertten’s documentary film about farm workers. The lengthy lawsuit was documented in Gertten’s film Big Boys Gone Bananas!*
The school district said that it has been harassed so often by Warren that it was not able to functionally educate its students. Toni Wayas, the school district’s superintendent, claimed “that it had, time and time again, complied with the requests” The Goldwater Institute argued that the school district had been in violation of state laws mandating government transparency in the past. Investigations in 2002 and 2007 by the state Ombudsman and Attorney General uncovered violations of the state’s open meeting law by the Attorney General’s Office.
According to Carrie Ann Sitren of the Goldwater Institute, this was “a clear attempt to silence people in the community who have been critical of the board’s actions, and have made good-faith attempts to ensure the district is spending taxpayer money wisely.” None of the records requested were private or confidential, and thus, should have been readily available to be released to the public, according to the assistant state Ombudsman.
Main article: Scientology versus the Internet
“Scientology versus the Internet” refers to a number of disputes relating to the Church of Scientology’s efforts to suppress material critical of Scientology on the Internet through the use of lawsuits and legal threats.
The Agora Six – The Cynwyd Group, LLC v. Stefany (2009)
Saltsman v. Goddard
The lawsuit asked for an injunction
against the blogger, a public apology and acknowledgement that he was not involved in the rape, and $25,000 in damages.
The case was dismissed with prejudice in December 2012, after the blogger agreed to post a statement that the boy was remorseful about his role in the aftermath of the Steubenville High School rape case
, which was done.
In August, 2015, the State Fair of Texas was sanctioned more than $75,000 for filing a SLAPP suit against a lawyer who had requested financial documents from the State Fair.
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