Proposed legislation could protect online reviewers from retaliatory suits

If you’ve never heard of a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP), consider yourself lucky.

I hadn’t either until a knock at my door on a January evening seven years ago. A process server pushed an envelope into my hand. “You are being sued,” a notice at the top of the document proclaimed. I felt my pulse quicken. Read more “Proposed legislation could protect online reviewers from retaliatory suits”

Thank you

It’s official — the lawsuit against me has been dismissed.

I wanted to take a minute to thank everyone who helped:

• My Florida-based attorney, Greg Herbert of Greenberg Traurig in Orlando, who understood that this was about more than a blogger being sued by a travel agency. The case raised some important First Amendment and press freedom issues, and I’m grateful that he saw them and was willing to devote his energies to helping me.

• The Society of Professional Journalists’ Legal Defense Fund, which awarded me a grant to help with my legal expenses. In particular, I want to thank Clint Brewer, chair of the SPJ National Legal Defense Fund, and Salley Shannon of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, both of whom were instrumental in making the grant happen.

• My lawyer, Anthony Elia, who told me six months ago that the case was over. Anthony — you were right.

• The Citizen Media Law Project at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which helped me find legal representation, and Charles Davis, the executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition and Creve Coeur City Council Member Laura Bryant, who introduced me to the Berkman Center.

• The various media outlets and blogs who covered my case, including Diane Lade at the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Jim Gaines at Orlando Weekly, Jim Walker at Cruise Law News and SLAPP expert Marc Randazza.

• None of this would have been possible without you, the readers of this site. Many of you offered to help by writing to your elected representatives, encouraging them to restart Florida’s stalled investigation into travel agencies that sold unlicensed insurance. It was your phone calls, emails and letters that pushed the state of Florida to finish this investigation, which has led to numerous settlement agreements with travel agencies.

After this experience, I feel a responsibility to get behind new laws that would prohibit so-called SLAPP suits, or strategic lawsuits against public participation. The Citizen Participation Act (H.R. 4364) is a good start, as is supporting a group like the Public Participation Project.

Thank you, all.

(Photo: v ernhart/Flickr Creative Commons)