Over a year ago CRNI was one of a number of organizations that wrote to the Supreme Court of California on behalf of cartoonist Ted Rall, who was attempting to overturn a lower court decision in favor of his former employer, the Los Angeles Times.
Rall was fired in 2015 amid claim and counter-claim of deceit surrounding the release of an alleged audio recording of an arrest for jaywalking nearly to decades ago. Later he attempted to sue for unfair dismissal and the Times moved against him using “anti-SLAPP” measures. In essence the Times was contending that Rall’s suit was a baseless nuisance and that the First Amendment protected their statements about Rall as it pertained to a matter of public interest.
The supreme court originally consented to hear Rall’s subsequent appeal but CRNI has recently learned of a reversal. Rather than having another hearing and then the possibility of a fresh set of proceedings the original lower court decision has instead been decertified.
This means that it can never be cited as legal precedent. That is a significant piece of good news for any Californian media worker compelled to sue a former employer in the future. But it leaves Rall without the victory he sought and hence liable for the hefty legal fees of both parties.
“SLAPP” suits are a favored method used by major corporations to silence critics – famously, John Oliver has made much sport of the various suits brought against him and his Last Week Tonight show by mining magnate Bob Murray – and so “anti-SLAPP” laws are an important safeguard for freedom of speech.
But they are as infamously piecemeal; overly generous, too narrow or entirely non-existent depending on the state. The typical “anti-SLAPP” narrative is a David and Goliath tale but in this case the roles have apparently reversed. A $700 million brand argued that a lawsuit mounted by a lone individual against them infringed upon their First Amendment rights and the record will show they won, even if no-one else can exploit that victory.
CRNI understands Rall is weighing his options including the possibility of an appeal to the US Supreme Court.