Royall's suit charging Main with defamation is, her lawyers document, riddled with mischaracterizations of what Main writes and about whom she writes it, and ignores long-established criteria of defamation law, which holds that a statement is not actionable as defamatory if the speaker obviously is expressing a subjective view or an interpretation, theory, conjecture or surmise.
Indeed, so slapdash are Royall's accusations against Main that his suit seems to reflect nothing more substantial than his dislike of her opinions and those of people she accurately quotes. It seems intended to chill commentary on eminent domain abuse by exposing commentators to the steep costs of deflecting even frivolous litigation.
The Institute for Justice -- an Arlington, Va.-based public-interest group that represented the victims of eminent domain in New London; it also is assisting the Gores -- identifies a national trend of attempted intimidation by litigation. For example, in Clarksville, Tenn., the institute successfully defended a group of property owners sued for $500,000 by a city councilman and a business interest claiming injury by a newspaper advertisement objecting to their eminent domain plans. In Renton, Wash., two developers sued a woman for statements she made while resisting a blight designation of her property, including, for example, that one of the developers is "a haughty and proud Pharisee."
The Supreme Court is blameworthy for two entangled abuses. It diluted property rights in the Kelo case and it weakened freedom of speech by not overturning McCain-Feingold. Fortunately, in an unusual Sept. 9 session, the court will hear, for a second time, oral arguments in a case arising from that law's speech restrictions.
The court should be cognizant of the attacks on property rights that its Kelo decision incited. And on Sept. 9 it should remember the increasing resort to restrictions of speech. McCain-Feingold is both a symptom and an encouragement of such restrictions.
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