CLDC attorneys Sandra Freeman and Lauren Regan authored an amicus brief in the legal bullying SLAPP case filed by CoreCivic against Candide Group and one of its founding partners, Morgan Simon, claiming as much as $60M in damages. Candide is a Registered Investment Advisor that directs capital away from an extractive global economy and towards investments dedicated to social justice and sustainability. In 2020 the private prison corporation CoreCivic sued the Candide Group, and Morgan Simon as an individual, for “defamation” after Ms. Simon’s opinions and (true, independently-verified) statements about CoreCivic’s detention practices were published in two Forbes.com articles.
Lauren Regan, Civil Liberties Defense Center Executive Director, PtP task force member, and brief co-author said: “The public interest value of state anti-SLAPP laws cannot be overstated. Until federal legislation is passed to stop malicious corporations from using SLAPPs to punish their adversaries for daring to speak the truth about their actions, these laws are the best line of defense for protecting our Constitutional rights to free speech and assembly from corporate assault. We urge the court to promptly reject this appeal and affirm the validity of California law.”
Reverend George Taylor’s right to mount a necessity defense in association with his civil disobedience action confronting ecological and human rights crises was denied by a Washington State Court of Appeals. Alongside ACLU of Washington and the Seattle Chapter of the NLG, CLDC filed a brief of amici curiae asking the Court to reverse the lower Court’s ruling and allow this critical ‘lesser of two evils’ defense to move forward.
“The necessity defense has a central role to play in reinvigorating our struggling democracy, in that it provides an opportunity for the community-at-large to evaluate whether an action taken for the greater good does in fact maximize social benefit. Moreover, the reasonableness issue is traditionally an element evaluated by juries rather than prosecutors and individual judges,” CLDC Executive Director and Senior Staff Attorney Lauren Regan explained.
“Protesters who engage in civil disobedience are making a value judgment on behalf of their community: that avoiding a particular harm contributes more to the greater good than adherence to a particular law. The role of a jury in a necessity case is to ratify or reject that calculation. The Court of Appeals’ decision usurps this important role of the jury and should not be adopted by this Court,” the groups wrote in the brief.
CLDC and the Protect the Protest task force filed an amicus brief in support of Maggie Hurchalla, a Florida community elder and leader who dared to ask her elected officials to reject a mining company’s proposal that she believed could harm the environment. Ms. Hurchalla, a 79-year-old private citizen and retired Martin County, Florida county commissioner, was hit with over $4 million in damages for sending a single email to her public officials expressing her reservations about Lake Point Restoration’s proposed limestone mining project and urging them to reject the mining company’s permit application.
Maggie’s attorneys are asking the United States Supreme Court to review this extremely disturbing decision that will likely scare some people away from participating in their government. CLDC’s amicus brief shows how, unless the case is reversed, it could set a very alarming precedent for our First Amendment right to participate in public proceedings.
“The right to petition the government is a foundational principle of free speech; when citizens ask the government to solve a problem, such speech should, and must, be immune from private liability. Maggie’s case is a horrible example of why this immunity is so crucial, particularly when one is speaking out against a wealthy corporation,” said Lauren Regan, the Director and lead attorney for CLDC, which also coordinates the legal team for the Protect the Protest task force made up of over 30 organizations from around the country. “For that right to mean anything, people must be free from fear of bad-faith corporate attempts to seek tort liability on the basis of speech that should be protected. If the precedent of the Florida court is allowed to stand, it will substantially deter individuals from speaking out on politically fraught issues,” said CLDC Staff Attorney Rebecca Chapman.
Plaintiffs Detroit Will Breathe and 14 individual plaintiffs brought a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Detroit and the Detroit Police to challenge their unlawful, violent response to protest activity from this past summer. Early in the case DWB won an early victory when the court entered a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Detroit Police from using certain tactics against protestors. In response, the City of Detroit filed a counterclaim against all of the plaintiffs alleging a single claim of civil conspiracy. The City argued that plaintiffs conspired together to commit unnamed and unspecified “illegal acts.”
In the face of the deplorable physical violence being perpetuated by the City of Detroit and the police force, such a legal tactic is as worrisome as it is offensive. After having failed to silence DWB through systemic and systematic violence, the City of Detroit is now attempting to weaponize the courts to silence them. As DWB put it in their motion to dismiss the counterclaim: “deprived by Order of this Court of their ability to silence Plaintiffs and others through the use of brute force and mass arrests, Defendants seek to chill Plaintiffs’ speech through a frivolous Counterclaim.”
Whereas corporations have long used frivolous conspiracy claims to attempt to silence dissent, this is the first time that a conspiracy claim has been used as a defense and a harassment tactic by a city and why it was important for CLDC and the Protect the Protest Task Force to file an amicus brief in support of DWB and against this abusive act of state repression. Happily, the Eastern District of Michigan recognized the frivolousness of the City’s counterclaim and dismissed it.