I'm pleased to be able to discuss two meaningful free speech victories today:
Victory In Oregon: This May I wrote about a SLAPP suit in Oregon by Beaverton Grace Bible Church in Oregon and its pastor, Charles O'Neil, against a former parishioner who criticized them online. This week the former parishioner, Julie Ann Smith, won her motion under Oregon's anti-SLAPP statute.
“(O’Neal) has the right to govern his congregation in the manner in which he chooses, and defendant Julie Anne Smith is authorized by law to express her disagreement with his performance of those activities,” [Judge] Fun wrote in the ruling dismissing the case.
You can read the defendant's take on it here. Looks as if Judge Fun awarded more than $16,000 in attorneys fees and costs to her. The judge's written opinion is here and here, divided into two documents for no reason I can fathom.
Congrats and kudos to Oregon attorney Linda Williams for this important victory.
Victory in the U.K.: Paul Chambers has just won his appeal from his conviction for sending a "menacing" tweet, a tweet that was to any minimally rational reader clearly satire and hyperbole: "Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week and a bit to get your shit together otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!!" He clearly didn't mean it as a true threat, and nobody on his feed took it as a true threat, but some busybody saw it and he was prosecuted and lost his job. I've uploaded the appellate decision here. Note this "who cares what the law is" response from one "social media expert":
But Chris Watson, a social media expert and head of telecoms at the law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, said: "This verdict will be seen as a victory for freedom of speech campaigners, but I can see why the CPS pursued this case.
"The police have a duty to take all terrorism threats seriously, but specifically on the question of what people can say on social media, the public seems very unaware that the same rules apply to social media as any other public forum.
"While the ruling today suggests the threat to Robin Hood airport should not have been considered credible, the public would be very wrong to take this as a green light to say whatever they want on social media, without consequence. I expect to see the police and CPS to bring similar cases to court in an attempt to correct public misconceptions on where the law stands."
As I've said before, I have no problem with law enforcement investigating "threats" to see if they are sincere, so long as they do not use methods that violate rights. But actually launching a prosecution and defending it on appeal is quite another story.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
- Shock, Dismay In Academia At Scorpion Acting Like Scorpion - June 28th, 2017
- Free Speech Triumphant Or Free Speech In Retreat? - June 21st, 2017
- The Power To Generate Crimes Rather Than Merely Investigate Them - June 19th, 2017
- Free Speech, The Goose, And The Gander - June 17th, 2017
- Free Speech Tropes In The LA Times - June 8th, 2017