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The Empire SLAPPS Back

“Empire” in this case refers to the Hearst publishing empire and SLAPP refers to a “Strategic Lawsuit against public participation” defense. Hearst’s publication Esquire Magazine lampooned Joseph Farah, saying that the book published by WorldNetDaily, Where’s the Birth Certificate? by Jerome Corsi was being recalled from bookstore shelves. Farah sued for libel.

I speculated last June that Esquire Magazine might use the District of Columbia’s anti-SLAPP statute to derail Farah’s lawsuit, and so it has come to pass. The special motion in an anti-SLAPP defense requires that the plaintiff demonstrate that they can likely prove their case, and do so before any pre-trial discovery and depositions takes place.

JOESPH FARAH, et al. v ESQUIRE MAGAZINE, INC., et al. – 66411988 Motion to Dismiss

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6 Responses to The Empire SLAPPS Back

  1. avatar
    aarrgghh September 27, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    “I speculated last June that Esquire Magazine might use the District of Columbia’s anti-SLAPP statute to derail Farah’s lawsuit, and so it has come to pass.”

    who do you think yer foolin’, doc? so you got yer marchin’ orders early. we already know you’re in on the plot to destroy america …

    </birfer>

  2. avatar
    ASK Esq September 27, 2011 at 11:16 pm #

    Man, I hate having to root for a giant, soulless corporation. Add that to my list of tthings I’m mad at Farah about.

  3. avatar
    y_p_w September 28, 2011 at 12:50 am #

    ASK Esq:
    Man, I hate having to root for a giant, soulless corporation. Add that to my list of tthings I’m mad at Farah about.

    I don’t know about soulless. Will Hearst is still in a big role in the company, and he certainly showed a little soul. He had a sense of humor about running one of their papers, although I can’t find the spot where he’s at a firing range with Hunter S Thompson.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-BVArHJPrY

    Then there’s Heart Newspapers’s Editor at Large, Phil Bronstein. Remember him? The guy who was once married to Sharon Stone and got bitten in the foot by a Komodo dragon.

  4. avatar
    Dr. Conspiracy September 28, 2011 at 10:13 am #

    I find Esquire’s argument persuasive.

  5. avatar
    Vince Treacy September 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Back in June 2011, I noted that “The DC ant-SLAPP law is very new, but has already been invoked in a very high profile case against a local give-away newspaper, the DC CityPaper. Snyder owns the Washington Ethnic Slurs, a pro football team, and took affront at an article in the CityPaper. He first filed in NY, but refiled in DC. Snyder’s lawyer at one time said that the intent was to bankrupt the alternative newspaper.”

    The Snyder lawyers at first attacked the SLAPP law itself, arguing that it was invalid because the DC Council exceeded its delegated powers under the congressional home rule act for the District enacted back in the 1970s.

    It turns out that the argument never came to a decision. While the case was pending, the New York Times Sunday Magazine interviewed Dan Snyder, the Boy Ruler of the Washington Ethnic Slurs pro football franchise.

    There transpired the following colloquy:

    “Earlier this year, you sued The Washington City Paper for publishing “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” which, among other things, claimed that your company had engaged in some shady business practices. Have you read the article?

    “No.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/magazine/redskins-owner-dan-snyder-on-being-a-marked-man.html

    Oops!

    Sound of Snyder’s legal team pounding their heads against a concrete wall in abject frustration.

    After forcing them to parade this frivolous suit up and down the east coast, the pathetic fool gives it away with one simple word.

    A few days later, the Danny announced that he was dropping the lawsuit to concentrate on the football season.

    Ha!

  6. avatar
    Vince Treacy September 28, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    It was suggested back then that the DC anti SLAPP law might not apply in federal court: “In theory, the rationales underlying the Erie doctrine tell us that federal judges should defer to a state’s legislative or judicial determinations on whether its own laws are substantive or procedural in nature. In practice, however, there are too many examples in the Erie doctrine case law, where federal judges, on all levels, reach conclusions about the nature (substantive vs. procedural) of a state law that are wholly incompatible with a state’s jurisprudence on the subject.”

    The defense in this case assert that the law does in fact apply: “Consistent with this mandate, the District of Columbia recently enacted an anti-SLAPPstatute to protect against this very sort of frivolous, retaliatory litigation targeting speech on public issues….” They argue that the anti SLAPP statute “requires plaintiffs to show by admissible evidence at the very outset of a case a likelihood of success on the merits, before subjecting defendants to burdensome and harassing discovery.” They say “The anti-SLAPP statute clearly applies here.” They also argue that the vast majority of federal courts have found that the state anti-SLAPP law afford substantive protections that are not merely procedural, and have applied them to federal cases.

    But because the SLAPP law was so new, the defense also moved for a dismissal under Rule 12(b)(6), asking the court to throw out the case, with prejudice, because the plaintiff Farah failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. If the court should dismiss the case on the pleadings under 12(b)(6), there may be no ruling at all on whether the anti-SLAPP law should apply.