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Public Officials File SLAPP Suit, Win Ass-Hat Award

Phil Barlow and Doug Morten serve on the St. Helens, Oregon, City Council. From what I have read, they’ve served honorably.

Citizen Sally Gump doesn’t agree, so she is organizing a recall campaign. (source)

Barlow and Morten reacted by filing a defamation suit against Gump. (source) Whatever their record was before that incident, they have lost all credibility by filing what is certain to be a short-lived case.

Their local paper hits it right on the head in Yes, actually, you can say such mean things

Unless Gump is making false and defamatory statements about them as people rather than councilors, they should realize recall efforts are seldom effective. Not as seldom as libel suits brought by pouting public officials, but still, the success rate is minimal.

The high road at this point would be to drop their lawsuits, write off the recall as the work of mumpish cranks and get on with business. Launching libel suits they can’t win only makes them look like they protest too much.

And no, they can’t win.

Miracles can happen, but people in government are supposed to take heat from the people they serve. The law makes it devilishly hard for them to retaliate.

It’s a great country. If you don’t like it, move to a country where government officials can make their critics shut up.

I’ll take it one step further. Barlow and Morten might not have deserved to be run out of office before they filed this suit. However, at this point, they are no longer worthy of serving in any public capacity whatsoever — especially not in a state like Oregon. The Oregon Constitution is the most protective of free speech of all the states’. However, even in a state like Florida, where free speech is considered to be an annoyance and not a right, this suit would be futile. See New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

Barlow and Morten are ass-hats of the week, and I challenge those punks to file a defamation suit against me.

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