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Jackson Walker Wins Another Dismissal Under Texas Anti-SLAPP Law

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

Judge Jaclanel McFarland of the 133rd District Court for Harris County granted a motion to dismiss under the Texas anti-SLAPP law this month for Manzoor Memon, publisher of a Houston newspaper, against Syed Bukhari, who sued claiming that Memon had published defamatory statements about him. 

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 but sometimes, it’s the media outlet’s original reporting that is the issue.

In this case, Bukhari had filed his original lawsuit prior to the Texas anti-SLAPP law going into effect, but he amended his complaint to add new claims of defamation after the effective period of the statute. 

Bukhari sought to avoid the statute by claiming that his new claims of defamation related to his prior pleadings, which did not specifically allege the statements at issue. 

He also claimed that he had prima facie evidence of his claims. 

The court rejected the Bukhari’s argument and dismissed the new claims.

“We were very pleased that the judge closely reviewed and followed the statute,” said Crystal Parker, a partner at Jackson Walker LLP who briefed and argued the case for the defendant.”

This was an important victory for free speech as the subject matter concerned statements about the fitness of a person intimately involved in charitable organizations to serve in that capacity.

The 2011 law was authored by TAB Associate Member attorney Laura Prather of Haynes and Boone LLP, a longtime member of TAB’s newsroom legislative committee.

It was shepherded through the Legislature by Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, with financial and grassroots lobbying support provided by TAB and other groups.

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

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