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Anti-SLAPP litigation law continues to benefit media outlets

The media outlet victories keep coming for the Citizens' Participation Act, commonly referred to as the Anti-SLAPP statute or CPA.

In mid-December, TAB’s general counsel Jackson Walker won a case for The Burnt Orange Report utilizing the law passed by the 2011 Texas Legislature through work by TAB and other groups.

Judge Jim Jordan of Dallas' 160th Judicial District Court granted a motion to dismiss claims against The Burnt Orange Report, its owner and editor and a reader who posted on the blog. Jordan will now conduct a hearing on mandatory attorneys’ fees, costs and "sanctions against the Plaintiff sufficient to deter him from bringing similar actions."

The Burnt Orange Report, a highly respected political blog from the Democratic Party perspective, was represented by Chip Babcock, Nancy Hamilton and Audra Welter.

The Plaintiff, a former candidate for judge, filed numerous pleadings resisting the motion and has indicated he will appeal the ruling.

"We are gratified that Judge Jordan carefully considered all of the arguments on both sides and concluded that the CPA applied and that the Plaintiff had not carried his burden to demonstrate by clear and specific evidence each element of his claim," Babcock said.

SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.”

Typically, a wealthy plaintiff files some form of defamation lawsuit in order to silence the criticism or whistleblowing of an individual by making it too expensive to defend one’s comments or allegations.  

Media outlets are often dragged into such suits by merely reporting on the issue.

The ability for a media entity to potentially recoup attorneys’ fees is one of the more progressive components of the relatively new law, which was authored by attorney Laura Prather of TAB Associate member law firm Haynes and Boone LLP.  Haynes and Boone is one of three law firms that fields TAB members' routine legal questions on state legal matters.

This is the third successful result for Jackson Walker clients under the recent statute.

In 2011, Mr. Babcock, together with John Edwards and Chevazz Brown, had a CPA motion granted on behalf of the Houston Community College System.

An appeal of that ruling, which also awarded over $30,000 in attorneys’ fees, was dismissed.

In an earlier case, Jackson Walker partner David Myers obtained a dismissal on behalf of the Better Business Bureau shortly after the statute was passed.

That case is currently on appeal.

Babcock recently argued what is believed to be the first appellate case on the merits under the CPA.

In that case, Univision moved for dismissal but the trial judge refused to rule within the statutory period and ordered broad discovery.

The Dallas Court of Appeals entered an interim order staying all proceedings in the trial court, including discovery, while it considered the appeal.

The case is under submission and a ruling is expected soon.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call 512-322-9944.

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