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Two Bloggers Sued, One by a Lawyer

Has someone installed a hair trigger on libel lawsuits against bloggers? If you don't like what a blogger writes, just take a litigation potshot. Consider these two cases from this week's news.

At the blog of the Citizen Media Law Project, Sam Bayard reports on the lawyer-against-lawyer lawsuit filed by Brooklyn attorney Marina Tylo against Andrew Lavoott Bluestone of the New York Attorney Malpractice Blog. According to the Summons with Notice, Tylo seeks $10 million in damages for libel, negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and tortious interference with prospective contractual relations. What did Bluestone allegedly do to injure Tylo to the tune of $10 million? He quoted from a court decision in a legal malpractice case against Tylo. Bayard is right on when he writes:

Unless I'm missing something, this looks like a purely frivolous case, perhaps a situation where sanctions against Tylo are appropriate. As explained in our legal guide, section 74 of the New York Civil Rights Law codifies the fair report privilege. Under the statute, speakers cannot be held liable for giving a "fair and true report of any judicial proceeding, legislative proceeding or other official proceeding."

Elsewhere, Dan Kennedy's blog Media Nation reports on another questionable lawsuit against a blogger, this one against Cape Cod resident Peter Robbins, author of the blog Robbins Report. Kennedy provides this synopsis:

Peter Robbins, who describes himself on his blog as a retired homicide investigator, wrote a post this past March 11 in which he referred to the anti-dredging suit as "this, NIMBY, frivolous, malicious action is doing nothing but stalling the inevitable and costing us the taxpayers unnecessary time and money." ("NIMBY" stands for "not in my backyard.") And he identified by name the people who brought the suit, saying that "these are the people who are costing you."

Kennedy is not a lawyer but he does a good job of laying out the legal issues raised by the case. The publisher of the site that hosts the blog, Cape Cod Today, removed "certain phrases and sentences" from the original post, at the request of the plaintiff's Hyannis, Mass., lawyer, Paul Revere III. That makes it difficult for outside observers to assess whether anything about the post was defamatory. But wouldn't this case implicate the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute? Robbins's lawyer Peter Morin thinks so, saying, "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." The aforementioned Citizen Media Law Project has a good overview of the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP law. It sure sounds like it fits.

I'll stop there. If I write anything more, someone may pull the hair trigger against me.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on September 4, 2008 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

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