Victory Against Speech Suppressing Libel Suits

As someone currently being sued for libel by a deep-pocketed corporation who wants me to take down a product review they don't like, I am happy to see Mother Jones prevail in their libel case brought by Frank VanderSloot, a case pretty transparently brought to suppress speech Mr. VanderSloot didn't like.  The bad news is that Mother Jones ended up with a bunch of legal bills for which they cannot get reimbursed (the exact same situation I am likely to face when I inevitably win my case).

This is exactly why we need better state and Federal anti-SLAPP laws, though I have found from personal experience campaigning for them here in Arizona that it is easy to run up against bipartisan opposition.  I will say that as happy as I am about Mother Jones' victory, there is a teenie tiny bit of schadenfreude seeing them lament the lack of loser-pay rules, something they would oppose in most any other case but their own.

  • PA32R

    It's the single thing with the potential to pull our civil justice system out of the toilet. But those in control of whether loser pays rules are enacted are motivated personally and by political funding to stymie any such improvement. Their rationalization that "it excludes those who aren't wealth from access to the justice system" is blatant b.s. It would merely incentivize the plaintiff's bar to consider the legitimacy of a case before undertaking it, something that they have absolutely no incentive to do now (with predictable results).

  • william_b

    Would you be willing to provide a rough figure on how much it will cost you to defend against your defamation suit? It just boggles my mind that Mother Jones has $650,000 in legal fees from a case in which they won summary judgement after the court found that the statements at issue are non-actionable opinion.

  • ErikTheRed

    Popehat signal?

  • marque2

    Even with Anti SLAPP rules course can ignore them. Look at the case of Mark Steyn vs Michael Mann. It should have been SLAPPed out of there long ago, but the case is now 4 years running - with the Judge ignoring the anti SLAPP law.

  • Mercury

    Mother Jones is so old-school Left they still stick up for the liberty of the individual every now and again, having not quite Progress-ed to the point of embracing enlightened totalitarianism.

  • Arrian

    Didn't Steyn go pro se and throw a wrench in the works for that? I thought they had the option to dismiss it under an anti SLAPP law, but Steyn wanted to go all the way through the process in order to get more information publicly available or something?

  • mlhouse

    I in general oppose loser pay rules because there are legitimate law suits that should be filed that would not if you risked having to pay the opposing parties legal expenses if you lost. Litigation is already so expensive that most of these 50-50 cases are never tried and settlements arranged that often only benefits the attorneys.

    The problem with the legal system is that ludicrous lawsuits can be filed and given the same attention as legitimate cases. ANd most of the reasons for these issues rests with the attorneys, both on the bench and at the bar. When someone files a frivolous law suit, such as the one against Mother Jones, why does it require $650,000 of "expertise" to defend against it? It is clear when a law suit lacks merit. These should never see the light of day, and even if they do, it should just be a glimmer that any staff attorney for a corporation would be able to get thrown out without much effort.

  • marque2

    I thought he couldn't get a SLAPP and so decided to go full bore. I'll have to look it up.

  • DavidCobb

    Steyn's co-defendants wanted to appeal the anti-SLAPP ruling but Mark didn't think it would fly and wanted to get on with the trial without wasting time or money.

  • hcunn

    One could argue for one-way fee-shifting in speech and press cases (SLAPP) as a special circumstance, giving recognition to the key importance of speech and dissemination of speech (press) to our functioning democracy. Apparently there is no Constitutional bar to one-way fee shifting, since it is already allowed (on behalf of plaintiffs) in some anti-discrimination cases.

    Attorneys and plaintiffs in SLAPP lawsuits should be jointly and severally liable for all of the defendant's expenses. Where the plaintiff sued "pro se", he and the jurisdiction which entertained his lawsuit should be jointly and severally liable for the defendant's expenses.

  • jdgalt

    Steyn wants to go to trial, or at least discovery, because he can demand details of Mann's computer model (and about the data that went into it, and the data that he threw out along the way) which will destroy Mann's reputation and career. Think ClimateGate squared and cubed.

    But Mann will probably let his suit be dismissed rather than produce the data, as he has already done in another defamation suit he filed in Vancouver, BC against a skeptical academic there.

  • jdgalt

    I don't think Coyote is quite as broke as the defendants for whom Popehat raises its signal. At least not yet.