It's not an uncommon scenario. A person of means in politics tries to shield themselves from criticism by the threat of a lawsuit.
"Stop writing about me or I will make it very expensive for you, shut you down, make your life unpleasant and difficult," is the message sent.
Filing the lawsuit in a distant venue adds to the legal burden of the journalist. He or she now has the added expense of travel, hotels, etc. That expense is greatly compounded if he wants to bring witnesses.
In response to our article about Mike Hernandez III's threat to sue blogger Jerry McHale for criticisms written in his blog, filing that suit in distant Tarrant County, a reader mentioned SLAPP, an acronym for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. This phrase refers to a lawsuit which merely attempts to silence, censor or intimidate. It's not even about winning the lawsuit as much as making things very expensive and burdensome for the journalist.
When the court recognizes a SLAPP lawsuit, they can impose penalties, fines in addition to throwing out the suit. Perhaps, that is why no one currently is being sued for referring to Hillary Clinton as "crooked Hillary" or declaring Donald Trump "unfit to be President." The courts are not receptive to hearing cases of political libel.
The anti-SLAPP laws now written render thin-skinned Mike Hernandez III's legal threat against McHale virtually worthless. If the lawsuit proceeds, it is the thin-skinned Hernandez who will likely have to pay.
Friday, August 5, 2016
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