Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Anti-SLAPP limitations

I have posted before about California protections against Strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) lawsuits, and one of my faithful readers cautions:
Hi, George! Just wanted to let you know - and pass on to your readers - that anti-SLAPP lawsuits have to be filed within six months of the filing of a SLAPP suit. Unfortunately, mine was was too old.
The real advantage of the anti-SLAPP law is to stop a lawsuit against you in progress. Some people get sued just because they have been writing letters to the newspaper editor, posting opinions on blogs, and otherwise engaging in public policy debates on important issues. Usually they are intimidated by the legal system, and unwilling to pay expensive lawyers. The anti-SLAPP law gives them a way to get rid of such lawsuits.

Here is a new N. Carolina case where a judge is being allowed to sue a blogger for libel.
The blogger accused the judge of "dirty politics" and violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, by campaigning for another judge. The judge notified the blogger than the Code had an exception for such endorsement, and the blogger ignored it.

The case illustrates the line between expressing an opinion that someone is wrong or unethical (usually safe), and saying that someone has violated a law or professional code (dangerous). Also, it shows that it is risky to pick on a judge, because a lawsuit will be heard before other judges.

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