In a good sign for blogger free speech, a lawsuit against a high profile conservative blog in Illinois has just been tossed out. A political contributor brought the lawsuit over a story about property tax reassessments and political contributions. This is a victory for free political speech as well as a victory for the status of blogs in the world of journalism.
I’ve been aware of this story for some time but the folks at Illinois Review, the blog in question, asked me to sort of keep it all quiet. There were all sorts of legal questions being thrown about and since the folks that run the blog dont have deep pockets and the whole thing was being born at their own expense, they wanted to be sure this whole mess didnt escalate and hurt them too bad financially.
The lawsuit meant to silence the blog was a convoluted one, to be sure. Illinois Review had posted a story that revealed that former Ill. State Rep. Paul Froehlich (R, Schaumburg) had sought campaign contributions from property owners who had won property tax relief claims that the Representative had assisted in getting settled. But after the story went live, due to the notoriety the county assessors office reversed those tax relief decisions.
One of the property owners mentioned in the original story was Satkar Hospitality. Illinois Review reported the facts of the case, noted that Satkar got a favorable property tax reassessment, and speculated that Satkar made in-kind contributions to Rep. Froehlich.
For his part Rep. Froehlich claimed that there was no quid pro quo and said hed known the folks at Satkar before they even opened their hotel and long before they contributed to my campaign.
Satkar sued the Illinois Review for defamation naming Fox News and others as coconspirators.
Fortunately, U.S. District Court Judge Matthew F. Kennelly dismissed the suit because Satkar failed to show that its claims against the blog were legitimate. Judge Kennelly also ruled that the bloggers have the right to seek reasonable attorneys fees and costs from Satkar.
My friend John Ruberry noted that the plaintiffs complaint contained a particularly low blow to the blog, too. Satkars lawyer, R. Tamara de Silva, said that Illinois Review had attracted a large goosestepping audience.
Nice, huh? This sort of obscene language does not belong in our courts.
In his decision, Judge Kennelly also affirmed that the blog was expressing its right to the furtherance of their right of free speech. This means we have yet one more precedent that we bloggers can be protected in our rights to freely publish our political opinions without fear of being sued over our blog posts (legitimate slander laws aside).
Weve won another one, folks. Let us hope that these precedents continue to pile up protecting us all in our efforts online.
The Chicago-based Thomas More Society represented the blog. Thomas More specializes in defending religious liberty, traditional marriage, and takes on right-to-life issues. (www.thomasmoresociety.org)
Note from JR: Rep Froehlich appears to be a D not an R, as given above