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Devin Nunes Libel Tourism Continues To Highlight The Problems Of Virginia’s Weak Anti-SLAPP Laws
was written by , 2020-01-06 15:32:14
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from the something-good-can-come-of-this dept
We’ve talked a bunch about how Rep. Devin Nunes’ ongoing series of SLAPP lawsuits, nearly all of which are in Virginia, have really served to highlight the nature of libel tourism in the US today, and in particular how plaintiffs and lawyers go hunting for jurisdictions with weak or non-existent anti-SLAPP laws. We already mentioned that Nunes’s series of lawsuits has convinced at least some Virginia legislators that it’s time to beef up Virginia’s anti-SLAPP law, but as the Washington Post recently noted, it’s also driving home how the rich and powerful engage in libel tourism by picking venues like Virginia to cause more trouble for those they sue.
Rep. Devin Nunes of California was angered by a story in his hometown newspaper detailing a claim that investors in a winery he partly owns partied with cocaine and prostitutes. So the Republican decided to sue — in rural Virginia.
Nunes bypassed the courthouse less than two miles from one of his offices and 10 blocks from the Fresno Bee to file the $150 million defamation claim against its owner 2,600 miles away. He also chose the Old Dominion to file two other recent defamation suits, one naming San Francisco-based Twitter and an anonymous user who has mocked him in the voice of an imaginary cow.
Why didn’t he sue in California (where he’s from and where the defendant newspaper was from)? Because, duh:
California’s anti-SLAPP law allows defendants to file a special motion at the outset of litigation if they feel the lawsuit is without merit and aimed at chilling First Amendment rights on a topic of public interest. If a judge sides with the defendant, the plaintiff is required to pay the defendant’s legal fees.
Virginia has an anti-SLAPP law, but there is no special motion provision and defendants are not guaranteed legal fees if a case is dismissed. The practical effect, experts say, is that cases can drag on until the sides begin to exchange evidence and a case goes to trial. That can mean months — or even years — of legal wrangling and hefty legal bills.
Indeed, the article notes that Virginia’s anti-SLAPP law is effectively a dead letter:
“I really have not seen the anti-SLAPP in Virginia successfully applied,” said Jennifer Nelson, co-director of the University of Virginia School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic. “It does not seem to be working the way it was intended to.”
The article also notes that Johnny Depp filed a defamation lawsuit in Virginia as well, and questions why he chose that jurisdiction.
Likewise, actor Johnny Depp sued his ex-wife Amber Heard for $50 million in a Northern Virginia courthouse, claiming he was defamed in an op-ed in The Washington Post in which she called for support for domestic violence victims like herself. Both Depp and Heard live in Hollywood. Heard, who came to at least one hearing in the case, said in court filings that she had never previously set foot in the state.
But, it does appear that Virginia’s reputation as a place for filing bogus SLAPP suits is getting more and more attention among lawmakers there:
The lawsuits have caught the attention of Virginia legislators. Del. Schuyler T. Van Valkenburg (D-Henrico) is preparing a bill for the state’s next legislative session in January that would seek to put its anti-SLAPP law on par with California’s. Defendants would have the opportunity to file a motion to dismiss a case early in litigation if they feel it is frivolous and, if successful, could recover fees from the plaintiff.
“If you have a democracy that works for people, the main thing we can do is make sure everyone has the ability to participate on an equal footing,” VanValkenburg said.
If so, that would be the one good thing coming from these Nunes lawsuits.
Filed Under: anti-slapp, devin nunes, johnny depp, libel tourism, slapp, virginia
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Irrespective of whether it is a product of evolved insights or common tendency as a whole consumers want sustainable tourism and want to think of themselves as responsible travelers. California is a destination in which sustainable travel is mandatory.
No matter what you and your group are excited about exploring wilderness, vacationing with the whole family, opting for an intimate escape, in search of adventure, searching for foodie paradise, or really enjoy culture, California offers boundless possibilities. High on the list of proposed attractions for nearly everyone going to California has to include at least one of the following suggestions about destinations, places to see, and things to do.
From the beaches to the mountains, LA is Southern California’s hub for entertainment.
Disneyland: The original House of Mouse is a must-do if you are traveling with kids. Technically this is in Orange County, but its all one big city anyway.
Hollywood: Take a stroll along Hollywood Boulevard, see the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame sidewalk and the footprints at Grauman’s Chinese Theater.
Universal Studios: Get a glimpse at how real films are made, go on the rides, and catch live shows at the theme park.
LA hosts famous galleries and museums, exceptional accommodation options, different activities and beaches.
San Diego has great California cuisine, this southernmost of California cities has some truly great restaurants, fantastic beaches, and envious weather and this is the city for a low key visit. Be careful you might want to relocate here.
Sea World: This popular aquatic theme park offers rides, animal exhibits, and shows.
San Diego Zoo and Wild Animal Park: World class reputations, enjoyable for all age groups.
Old Town San Diego: Quaint district with shopping, spectacular Mexican food.