Pro bono lawyers rescue scienceblogger from naturopath's SLAPP legal threats


22 Responses to “Pro bono lawyers rescue scienceblogger from naturopath's SLAPP legal threats”

  1. Chris Dorr says:

    Fantastic to see Mitchell & Davis continuing to fight the good fights! Good folks up theah!

  2. awjt says:

    Great story.  Not watered down one bit.

  3. Ken At Popehat says:

    Thank you, kind sir.

    My client Michael Hawkins — the science blogger in question — posted about his experience in the case here:  Much of the credit goes to him for his courage.


  4. lavardera says:

    My thanks to Ken. We all win in this case.

  5. Guest says:

    I’ve never quite understood how SLAPP is a First Amendment issue. There needs to be some kind of reform when it comes to civil law, but the government is not censoring anything. The legal system is being abused.

    • EvilSpirit says:

      You may be surprised to learn that the judiciary is part of the government.

    • Ken At Popehat says:

      Actually, you can only say it isn’t a First Amendment issue if you ignore about a century of American law.  The First Amendment is involved because (1) defamation laws are passed by the government, and (2) the courts, an instrument of the government, are being used to attack speech.

      You might disagree, and you might construct a coherent argument, but it’s an argument that comes many years too late.  

      • Guest says:

        So far two asshole answers and one helpful one. Thanks, Ken.

        If anything I think the government should be imposing severe penalties on parties that file SLAPP suits.

        My point of view was that because the plaintiff in a SLAPP is not the government, it can’t be a 1st amendment issue. The 1st amendment applies to the government.

        but if we are going to treat the courts as just a blunt instrument, if we DO hold the plaintiff responsible for abusing the legal system to subvert free speech,  shouldn’t there be some way to nail the plaintiff with civil rights violations? I’m talking criminal charges, not a counter-suit.

        • Ken At Popehat says:

          The remedies for frivolous censorious actions are anti-SLAPP motions (where available) and malicious prosecution actions.

          I understand your stance about it not being a First Amendment issue.  I’m just saying no court has accepted it for nearly a century.  Defamation suits are governed by the First Amendment because the plaintiff is using the force of the government.  And Thank God.  Because otherwise you could sue me just for disagreeing with you.

        • EvilSpirit says:

          Wait: your problem was actually that you don’t think that the government punishing someone for speech is not a First Amendment issue, just because they are not the ones *initiating* the action?

          No wonder I couldn’t figure out what the Hell you were talking about.

        • gibbon1 says:

          My take on that is making threats to sue someone without any standing to do so is a form of assault.  Lawyers that do that should potentially face disbarment and criminal prosecution.

          And it is a first amendment issue in the US at least. because it’s the government that enforces judgements.  The flip side is that if the courts refuse to enforce a law, contract, etc it’s null and void.  For instance convents that prohibit home owners from selling to minorities were deemed unenforceable by the supreme court, because under the equal protection amendment the court claimed the government _had no right_ to enforce.

    • marilove says:

      Don’t you think a lawyer, and a First Amendment Lawyer, miiiiight know more about this than you do?

      • Stooge says:

        While that may be valid advice in this specific instance, it’s not good advice generally: that’s exactly the attitude that SLAPP suits rely on to work.

    • LadyAntonym says:

      Which is why  SLAPP was enacted – to end that abuse.  Courts have found that libelous statements don’t have first amendment protection.  EVERY libel case is also a First Amendment case. Filing a false libel case is attacking the victim’s First Amendment rights.

  6. gordonjcp says:

    See, this was one of the points I made the other day about the UK having rather better freedom of speech.  In the UK, in a libel or slander case, the person telling the truth winds.  In the US, the person with the most money wins, unless the other guy gets a really lucky break.

    • Gilbert Wham says:

      Um, isn’t that the US system in general?

    • Cory Doctorow says:

      Actually, that’s not a very good characterisation of the state of UK libel law (which is globally notorious for its breadth and friendliness to plaintiffs). In the USA, truth is an affirmative defense in libel claims. If you are accused of libel and you can show in a preliminary hearing that you were telling the truth, the case is over. Preliminary hearings aren’t free, but they’re a lot cheaper than trials.

      In the UK, truth is *not* an affirmative defense in libel. If you’re accused of libelling someone, the fact that the allegedly libellous speech is true is *not* a defense — you have to demonstrate much more complex concepts to mount a specific defense — you have to prove that you weren’t telling the truth in a way calculated to tarnish the plaintiff’s reputation. This is a really difficult, fact-intensive thing to demonstrate, and it will cost you a *lot* to prove it.

      What’s more, the UK doesn’t have anti-SLAPP statutes, and it asserts jurisdiction for speech and “victims” all over the world, with only the most tenuous connections to the UK (the US government actually passed a law saying UK libel judgements can’t be enforced in the US to avoid this).

  7. ialreadyexist says:

    Have you been SLAPPed?  SLAPP ‘em Back Baby!  A SLAPP Back is essentially a malicious prosecution lawsuit, which claims damages for being subject to a maliciously filed lawsuit. This could include damages for emotional distress and punitive damages.  In some jurisdictions, like California, the penalties can be pretty severe.
    * May not be available where you live.

  8. katallred says:

    I have nothing to add to the excellent legal discourse occurring here, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank boingboing for existing and, among promoting and doing other noble things, for fighting libidinous jerks like MagicJack. To use the colloquialism, SLAPPers can go fuck themselves.

  9. teapot says:

    Considering naturopaths and NDs (That’s Not Doctors) are invariably scathing about the “corrupt medical industrial complex” surely we can put some of the scammers out of business with a few slander cases of our own. What a fucking joker.

    My solution would be to simply post whatever offending material I had created everywhere possible, including responding to all legal threats with copies of what I had written.

  10. Marc Mielke says:

    This is yet another appropriate place to recommend that the affected parties refer the plaintiffs to the reply found in Arkell vs. Pressdram (1971)

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