If You've Already Lost A SLAPP Suit, Perhaps Don't Threaten Someone For Writing About You Losing Your SLAPP Suit

from the just-saying dept

We've written about SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) many times in the past -- and they're frequently about people using the legal system to try to silence someone who wrote something that portrays them in a way they don't like. Thankfully, California and a few other states have decent anti-SLAPP laws that allow such lawsuits to be tossed out fairly quickly. But those who file SLAPP lawsuits still quite frequently have a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that people can report factually on stuff that still makes them look bad. It appears we have one such case happening now (sent in by Tom), which may be leading up to the possibility of a rare double-SLAPP, in which someone potentially files a SLAPP lawsuit against someone who reported on them losing another SLAPP lawsuit. How meta would that be?

Let's take a step back. In May of this year, Steve Pond at TheWrap.com published an article about accusations being made against a San Francisco socialite Elisabeth Thieriot by film producer Raul Julia-Levy. The details aren't particularly important, other than this: there was a documentary being worked on about the Mayan calendar. There was a falling out between Thieriot, who helped finance the film, and the film's producer, Raul Julia-Levy. As the original article makes clear, there have been accusations made that Julia-Levy's credibility isn't that strong -- but the article did report accurately that he has made certain accusations against Thieriot, that she filmed without a valid permit and that she fled the country with footage, despite being asked to stay.

Thieriot then sued TheWrap for defamation, but last month, an LA court dismissed the claim on anti-SLAPP grounds, noting that Thieriot failed to show that the statements made in the original article were false, or that the statements were made maliciously. The failure to prove that the statements were false is pretty much the end of any defamation claim, and the anti-SLAPP process makes it quick and easy... and opens up Thieriot to the possibility of having to pay TheWrap's legal fees.
Plaintiff fails to produce evidence showing that the statements in the article were false. The article reports on allegations made by levy against plaintiff.... The article at multiple points indicates that the accusations came from Levy and the article at no point states that plaintiff actually committed the alleged acts. The article does not state that plaintiff has been charged with any crime. Indeed, the article at several points indicates that Levy had been previously accused of dishonesty.
Basically, standard-issue dismissal thanks to California's lovely anti-SLAPP law. So that's SLAPP, the first.

Next up, we have a blog called SFCitizen.com who, it should be admitted, has a bit of a history of mocking Thieriot. Not surprisingly, the blog posted about the dismissed SLAPP suit, with a post entitled Pwned! Area Socialite Elisabeth Thieriot Loses Her “SLAPP” Lawsuit against Journalists in L.A. – Mayan Prophecy. It basically repeats the basic points of the story, though clearly in a mocking fashion. Not much to it.

And then... Thieriot apparently decides that, despite having already lost a SLAPP suit, that she's going to threaten this other blogger for writing about the fact that she lost her SLAPP suit. The argument shown in the letter that Thieriot's lawyers allegedly sent, which was posted to the SFCitizen site, is that because the blogger only stated (the factual info) that she had lost her SLAPP suit... without also including information on the reliability of the source for the original TheWrap column, this somehow was a form of defamation.
While the blog's title suggests it's been "sued," it appears that it's just been nastygrammed at this point. But that letter certainly appears to be threatening a nearly identical kind of SLAPP suit, in which they claim defamation over things that are true as stated, but which Thieriot feels doesn't properly give deference to her side of the story. We all saw how it turned out the first time around. Could it be time for a double-SLAPP on someone filing a SLAPP over someone reporting on how they lost their original SLAPP? Exciting times...

Oh, and we can't let this one go without pointing out that I'd thought most lawyers by this point had learned that lines like "you are not authorized to disclose the contents of this letter publicly or to disseminate it..." only serve to make whoever sent the letter look ridiculous for claiming things that simply have no basis in anything. Apparently, however, there are still some out there.


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