May 17, 2007

"You Can't Fight City Hall."

Unless you have a blog.

The Foothills Cities blog has retained counsel to defend itself against the attempts at intimidation by the City of Pomona.

The money quote from the Bostwick & Jassy letter sent to Pomona's City Attorney:

A response to any lawsuit will surely include a special motion to strike under Code of Civil Procedure 425.16, which is designed to weed out SLAPP suits (SLAPP is an acronym for Stretegic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). Under that law, the defendants need to demonstrate that the targeted speech relates to a matter of public interest (which it clearly does here), and then the plaintiffs would have the burden of demonstrating a probability of success on their claims, without the benefit of any discovery. Your clients would not be able to satisfy such a burden. As a result, our clients would prevail, and they would be entitled to a mandatory award of their attorneys fees under the anti-SLAPP statute. Not only will any defamation plaintiffs waste the public's money paying their attorneys, they will end up paying our cleints' fees.

It's a beautiful thing. At least, I see it that way. Robert Hymers* may disagree, along with J.L. Kirk & Associates*, Enigma Software Group*, Infotel/Vericom/AmeriCorp***, the City of Pomona, and so many others.

There is a lovely passage in the coverage of this story by the Whittier Daily News (other than the fact that I—a hometown girl, whose four grandparents lived in that town for decades!—got a mention):

Pomona officials questioned the lofty aspirations of Foothill Cities [Blog] and challenged the need for anonymity.

"I could take a pseudonym of somebody that had more prestige or historical significance and be totally inaccurate," said Paula Lantz, a Pomona City Councilwoman. "Why would I give more credence or less credence to what they write by how they identify themselves?"

Lantz likened any Internet buzz over the posts, Alvarez-Glasman's letter and Foothill Cities reaction to spam chain letters that circulate from friend to friend via e-mail.

"It's like when someone forwards some cute, little anecdotal stories about Mother's Day, or Easter, or name the circumstance," Lantz said. "It went to a gazillion people because everyone that gets it turns around and clicks `send to all' and it gets sent to their entire directory of contacts and so on and so on and so on."

Pomona Mayor Norma Torres compared Foothill Cities coverage of Pomona to supermarket tabloids.

"They don't have the full picture of what's going on," she said. "I laugh at them. You know what? They are gossipers."

Lantz said she first became aware of the blog after receiving an e-mail on April 20.

"The e-mail said, `We thought you might be interested in a recent post. We're happy to publish your response or commentary on the topic," Lantz said. "It was signed, `best, Centinel."

So the officials in Pomona admit that they only know about the posts in question because one of the bloggers made a good-faith effort to get their side of the story. And blogs are, to them, simply gossip and innuendo—not worthy of notice. Except, of course, when it's time to send threatening letters on City letterhead.


Thanks to David Carr Harr for sending the link to the Whittier Daily News. My family—both sides, the Goodwins and Whittemores alike—will be thrilled/horrified.

Posted by Attila Girl at May 17, 2007 02:03 PM | TrackBack

Excellent. I hope you will be able to attend the Conservative Leadership Conference so we can meet you.

I will use your post as a reference for that legalese that looks like it will get results discouraging a city council from persuing legal action against a blogger. It seems that the "arrogance of power" intoxicates many government agencies to keep pressing on against the "puny bloggers."

Posted by: Richard Disney at May 17, 2007 11:14 PM

Bloggers do have a responsibility to verify what they claim is true. Otherwise, they can simply present information for public review, without further claims--which is what the good ones do. And I think most of us who surf the blogs can tell the difference. The City of Pomona would have been well advised to address the issues raised on the 'net. Boy, I bet that is what they are wishing they did, now.

Posted by: M.A. George at May 18, 2007 06:58 AM

Well, sure. We're not just here to cause trouble; we're here to cause productive trouble.

If we raise an issue, but can't discern what the underlying facts are, we have to disclose that we weren't able to fact-check the entry, and are hoping more info will come in.

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 18, 2007 08:24 AM

Well, it is Harr, not Carr, but that is ok...:-)


Posted by: David Harr at May 18, 2007 09:47 AM

I'm sorry; I wrote the post once, complete with all the links, and was just going to write one more line--the credit to you. Then I managed to nuke the entire entry, and had to reconstruct it. (It was, of course, funnier the first time.) So on take two I started to hurry at the end.

If my proofreading clients ever find this blog, I'm sunk ;)

Posted by: Attila Girl at May 18, 2007 12:31 PM

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