SLAPP-ed down

Neuwirth Loses Libel Case Against Tikun Olam

Rachel Neuwirth sued Richard Silverstein, the blogger at Tikun Olam, for calling her a "Kahanist swine". So confident were her lawyers of victory they told Silverstein that her case was a 'slam dunk' . Wrong!

The case was thrown out by LA Superior Court Judge John Reid who is no bleeding heart liberal but a law and order conservative who just happens to understand the importance of free speech in blogs.
We won the case with an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation) motion under which the defendant must prove that his speech was made in a public arena and furthered a public good and that the plaintiff was a public figure. Rachel's key argument was that she is a private figure (she argued that she was merely a real estate agent) and the my blog was a private forum (because I "controlled" it), all of which are patently false since she herself calls herself an "internationally respected journalist" in her online bio. That my blog is a public forum is also patently obvious as 250,000 unique visitors each year indicate. And I no more 'control' the 6,000 comments published on my blog than I control the entire web.

One of the beauties of the SLAPP motion is that the losing plaintiff must pay defendant's reasonable court costs. This system was purposely designed to inhibit well-heeled individuals from bringing frivolous lawsuits against whistle blowers and other do-gooders. As the judge's ruling states:

These lawsuits are generally brought to chill the valid exercise of constitutional rights. A SLAPP suit lacks merit and will achieve its objective if it depletes the defendant’s resources or energy because the aim is not to win but to detract the defendant from his or her objective. [An anti-SLAPP motion] is a procedural remedy to dispose of such suits expeditiously and thereby protect defendants’ free exercise of First Amendment rights on matters of public interest
This is an interesting case, especially in the context of some recent attempts in this country to silence blogs. Read the whole thing. (Via JSF)