Former tenant Amanda Bonnen had just 22 followers on Twitter when she commented in a strongly negative way about Horizon Realty of Chicago. And here’s what a spokesman for Horizon is quoted as saying about its lawsuit:
We’re a sue first, ask questions later kind of an organization.
[Podcasting News, Mashable] More: WSJ Law Blog, Charles @ Popehat, Volokh, Bayard/Citizen Media Law. And according to a followup in the WSJ Law Blog, Horizon has apologized for the “sue first” comment, characterizing it as tongue in cheek, and says when it filed the libel action it was already the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Bonnen.
Lawyer/blogger Andrew Lavoott Bluestone, in his New York Attorney Malpractice Blog, noted and quoted a case in which Brooklyn lawyer Marina Tylo was (unsuccessfully) sued by a client for “serving a summons before buying the index number,” that being the wrong order in which to do things in New York. Tylo has proceeded to sue Bluestone for $10 million and several blogs have already 1) mentioned the strong privilege that attaches to fair reports of court proceedings and 2) suggested that Tylo will before long be well acquainted with the phrase “Streisand effect“. Coverage: Scott Greenfield, Eric Turkewitz, Mike Cernovich (more), Citizen Media Law Project, Ambrogi/Legal Blog Watch.
In March Peter Robbins, a retired homicide detective who blogs for Cape Cod Today as the Robbins Report, ran an item criticizing the law offices of Paul Revere III (yes, a descendant of you-know-who) and various local residents he represents, for having filed a procedural action seeking to stop the dredging of Barnstable harbor on environmental grounds. Robbins opines (to quote the post in its current form):
In my opinion this, NIMBY, frivolous, malicious action is doing nothing but stalling the inevitable and costing us the taxpayers unnecessary time and money. Millway Beach and Blish Point were pretty much created by past dredging. Perhaps if the town didn’t have to waste its time with foolish actions such as these, they would have been able to concentrate on the real issues and the bulkhead could have been saved. Who knows?
Robbins mocked the lawyer as “Paul (the dredge isn’t coming) Revere III” and, in the original version of the post — now altered — described one of the local abutters filing the dredge action, Joseph Dugas, as “infamous” with an added, unprintable opinion-based expletive. Now Revere and Dugas have sued Robbins and an anonymous third party who posted further hostile comments about the two. (James Kinsella, “Defamation suit filed against CC Today blogger, commenter”, Cape Cod Today, Aug. 29). Robbins is being represented by our very own Overlawyered guestblogger and Boston-area lawyer Peter Morin, who wrote in a response, “This matter is a textbook example of the justification for an anti-SLAPP statute that protects the right of individuals to comment on matters of significant public concern.” David Ardia at Citizens Media Law Project has an analysis which mentions Massachusetts’s existing anti-SLAPP provisions, and Dan Kennedy at Media Nation (via Ambrogi) takes a look at the case, observing that it’s hard to evaluate the merits of the defamation claim since we don’t know exactly how the blog post read before the publisher made deletions to it at the demand of the plaintiffs.
Finally, Chicago’s BlockShopper is a site that reports on real estate transactions in in-town neighborhoods, often with descriptions of the professionals buying and selling the homes and condos, a practice that has now drawn a lawsuit from the giant international law firm Jones Day. “The suit alleges trademark infringement and unfair trade practices, based on Blockshopper’s use of the firm’s [Jones Day’s] service marks, links to its site and use of lawyers’ photos from its site.” Although BlockShopper removed all references to Jones Day, “the law firm continues to seek an injunction shutting down the site”. Unauthorized use of photographs and service marks presumably might give rise to valid claims, but the reference to “links to its site” may suggest a broader sweep, and in negotiations Jones Day is reportedly trying to extract a commitment from the site not to conduct journalism about its member lawyers’ real estate transactions at all. (R. David Donoghue, Chicago IP Litigation Blog, more; Ambrogi, Legal Blog Watch; Citizen Media Law Project).
A Southfield, Mich. company named Park West has made a big business of conducting art auctions on cruise ships offshore, while leaving more than a few dissatisfied customers in its wake. Fine Art Registry, a subscriber website founded by Theresa Franks, has published some of those customer complaints as well as original articles warning of Park West’s practices. “In April the company sued Ms. Franks; Fine Art Registry’s lead writer, David Phillips; and a Dalí specialist that the site quoted, Bruce Hochman, for defamation.” And as so often proves to be the case when a business reacts to criticism by suing its critics, the suit has if anything stimulated further press curiosity about the business’s practices. (Jori Finkel, “Art Auctions on Cruise Ships Lead to Anger, Accusations and Lawsuits”, New York Times, Jul. 16). More: Donn Zaretsky, Art Law Blog.
On grounds that it was an abuse of the judicial process, a California judge has tossed the lawsuit Barbra Streisand brought against an environmental group who took an aerial photograph of her home off of a Malibu beach as part of a larger project documenting coastal erosion. The Smoking Gun has both the decision and the photo, as well as the May complaint. According to a press release of the defendants, the photo of Streisand’s home had only been downloaded six times before the lawsuit–twice by her own attorneys. The lawsuit just guaranteed thousands of additional people would see the photos. (Kenneth R. Weiss, “Judge Rejects Streisand Privacy Suit”, LA Times, Dec. 4).