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Ted Rall Petition Backed by CBLDF, AAEC, CRNI

 

 

Cartoonist Ted Rall has petitioned the California Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling that found in favor of the L. A. Times anti-SLAPP suit against Ted.

SLAPP and anti-SLAPP from Forbes:

For my non-attorney readers, a strategic lawsuit against public participation — aka SLAPP — is a lawsuit that may potentially censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with heavy legal costs until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

To remedy this behavior, many jurisdictions have passed so-called anti-SLAPP statutes as a mechanism that could potentially dismiss such strategic lawsuits. Anti-SLAPP statutes established a new procedural tool in the form of a “special” motion to strike, effectively reversing the standard burdens of proof at a very early stage of the litigation, requiring the plaintiff to all but prove their case at the outset. The boldest component of these laws makes it mandatory for the court to award a prevailing defendant his or her attorney’s fees.

Basically SLAPP refers to corporations suing those who it wishes to silence, anti-SLAPP gives those intimidated to halt the SLAPP suit until a court decides if it is a reasonable action. If the SLAPP is ruled unreasonable the intimidated gets the intimidator to pay their legal fees.

If I understand right, and I may not, Ted Rall’s position is that the L.A.Times has turned this law on it’s head and is using it to silence Rall.

Lower courts have ruled for the L.A.Times leaving Ted responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees incurred by The Times.

 

 

From Ted Rall last week:

Whether journalists in California will keep basic employment protections and whether libel will remain actionable are now important issues in the hands of the California state Supreme Court. We filed our Petition to Review with the court yesterday. Please read it here. It’s a good primer about an important case. And please wish me luck. I need it!

 

In support of Ted Rall’s case, and editorial cartoonists in general, a few organizations have filed an Amicus Letter/Friend of the Court letter to the California Supreme Court.

 

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund

 

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists notes that “Rall is seeking to have the ruling set aside so that he may continue his lawsuit against the LA Times for wrongful termination and defamation, after he was fired as a contributor by the newspaper in 2015.” The Times anti-SLAPP suit has effectively ended the original lawsuit.

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists (AAEC) is a professional association dedicated to the promotion and preservation of the political cartoon. The mission of the AAEC is to champion and defend editorial cartooning and free speech as essential to liberty in the United States and throughout the world. It is the world’s largest organization of political cartoonists…

In light of our mission, the AAEC would like to express its dismay over the handling of Ted Rall’s case by the California court system. We urge the court to consider the downstream effects of a harsh ruling in this case.

Rall is a political cartoonist. Cartoonists live and work on the cutting edge of free speech. We are disproportionately targets of ire, often for bringing up discomforting topics and pointing out unpleasant truths, which is the very nature of satire. This ire sometimes comes from the general public, but most often it comes from the targets of the cartoon commentary, and takes a variety of forms…

It’s regrettable, and perhaps not the intention of the court, but the harsh treatment of Rall sends a message to political cartoonists of all stripes. The overly punitive application of the SLAPP laws in this case will financially ruin a cartoonist and this will have a lamentable chilling effect. As a fierce defender of First Amendment rights the AAEC sincerely hopes the court will consider what sort of message it’s sending. Cartoonists face many different kinds of threats and challenges these days. We hope the California Supreme Court won’t be adding to them.

The full AAEC Friend of the Court letter with explanatory preface.

 

Cartoonists Rights Network International

Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) is a human rights organization working in defense of editorial, political and other cartoonists whose work leads to direct threats against their life, limb or livelihood. Often this involves cartoonists from oppressive theocracies where blasphemy or mere disrespect is a matter of grave consequence. Far more common, however, are instances where cartoonists suffer abuse inflicted with the instruments of authoritarian regimes: the military or police, party loyalists, unduly censorious statutes or heavy-handed legal action. In recent years the cases we champion have been largely in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Central & South America.

[This case] alarms us first and foremost because of how similar certain aspects appear to those of others we have followed in locations such as Turkey, Malaysia or Equatorial Guinea. In each of these places a cartoonist has been the recipient of our annual Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award after being subjected to campaigns of intimidation and harassment from police, generally based on fabricated or exaggerated evidence.

Of course we recognize that Mr Rall’s case differs in the scale and gravity of the alleged criminality at its heart, (neither jaywalking nor the allegedly exaggerated blog post are acts of sedition) but the intent and effect of the ensuing events have produced alarmingly similar results. That a freelance cartoonist could be expected to pay the legal fees of one of the country’s largest and most powerful news outlets seems an injustice so skewed as to be clearly intimidating to other writers and artists. That the incident involves the police could be construed as a further warning against challenging the authorities. Those in positions of power have seized upon an opportunity to silence a critic and serious, perhaps irreparable, damage has been done to the career of a popular and acclaimed cartoonist…

An editorial cartoon is not a bald statement of fact; it is an opinion piece. Nonetheless humor falls flat without veracity. Thus we look to cartoonists not for nuanced analysis of any particular policy but to reveal greater truths. It is for this reason that those in power have cause to fear them. Like virtually no other profession, the cartoonist makes it their business to remind the citizenry that the emperor is wearing no clothes.

Read the full CRNI Friend of the Court letter and a preface to the latter.

 

 

 

Community Comments

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#1 Ted Rall
March/6/2019
@ 7:10 am

“If I understand right, and I may not, Ted Rall’s position is that the L.A.Times has turned this law on its head and is using it to silence Rall.”

Yes, that’s right. The state legislature did not intend for major corporations to use the anti-SLAPP statute to stifle free speech on the behalf of government agencies, which is what happened in my case.

We also have other arguments in the Petition, which you can read in full at Rall.com. Many involve the arcana of the anti-SLAPP case law and California Code 49, which creates certain categories of “privileged” speech. Among other things, we are pointing out that whatever truth was contained in the Times’ reports about the jaywalking arrest audio recording was negated by the release of the subsequent enhanced audio, which revealed that I, not the LAPD/LA Times, told the truth. That is a question for a jury to decide, not a judge.

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