The ACLU of Massachusetts hails the Supreme Judicial Court's ruling today, which holds that two bloggers, sued for defamation by the scientific consulting firm Cardno Chemrisk, were protected by the state's anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, from being sued by the firm.
The unanimous decision in Cardno Chemrisk v. Foytlin held that the firm could not sue bloggers Cherri Foytlin and Karen Savage because their critical Huffington Post piece about Cardno Chemrisk's work related to the BP oil spill was reasonably based in fact. "The ruling is an important and timely reaffirmation of the right to petition the government," said Sarah Wunsch, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Massachusetts.
The ACLU of Massachusetts advocated for the anti-SLAPP statute to prevent people from being afraid to speak out on important matters for fear of being sued. The statute broadly defines protected petitioning to include speech aimed at encouraging the public to get involved in matters being considered by the government.
"The ruling clarifies that one need not have a direct self-interest at stake in the petitioning in order to be protected by the statute," said Jeffrey Pyle, a partner at Prince Lobel Tye and a cooperating attorney for the ACLU of Massachusetts who, with Thomas Sutcliffe, filed an amicus brief in the case in support of the two bloggers. "The ruling is also important," Pyle said, "because it makes clear that journalists who write opinionated articles are covered by the anti-SLAPP protections."