Dorothy Brizill may have defeated the slots initiative in the Disrtict, but she'll have to defend herself against defamation charges filed by gambling promoters tonight in Supreme Court in Guam.
Yes, Brizill is being sued by John Baldwin and the case will appear before a three-judge panel in the Supreme Court of Guam, a territory of the United States in the South Pacific. Because the case crosses time zones, the Saturday morning trial actually will begin tonight at 8 EST.
Brizill will not appear in Guam, but she will be represented by Art Spitzer, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union for the Washington area. She also had to hire a lawyer, who is a member of the Guam bar, to represent her.
As one who rarely appears shaken by any public discourse, Brizill said she is "extremely nervous, especially since I wasn't able to go." She has never met Baldwin and believes the lawsuit is being used to try to intimidate her and others who might oppose him.
"It is an attempt to break me financially and punish me for my efforts in the District regarding Mr. Baldwin's slots initative. It's also an attempt to intimidate anyone who would speak out against his slots initiative in the future."
In 2004 and 2006, Brizill led the challenge to defeat Baldwin's slots initiative, which would have legalized slot machine gambling in the District and given a monopoly for a 3,500-machine casino on New York Avenue NE. Baldwin and the other promoters would have owned the casino.
The petitions signed by District residents were rejected by the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics because they were filed with forged and fraudulent signatures and violated the city's election law. The D.C. Court of Appeals also rejected it.
Two years later, another initiative to place a slots casino on Martin Luther King Avenue SE was also rejected after residents challenged it.
At the same time, Balwin was trying to get a similiar initiative approved in Guam. Residents there contacted Brizill who was interviewed on the radio about her successful challenge in the District. She also referred them to local newspaper articles about the failed initiative.
Baldwin immediately filed a defamation lawsuit against Brizill and Jackie Marati, an anti-slots leader in Guam, where he moved his business from the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The fact that the lawsuit is also filed against 20 other John Does allows the names of future opponents to be substituted.
In July, Guam's Superior Court sided with Brizill stating that she was immune from the lawsuit under the Guam Participation in Government Act and the complaints of defamation, interference with business advantage and invasion of privacy were unfounded. But Baldwin appealed. That is the subject of tonight's Supreme Court hearing.
"It's had a very chilling effect," Brizill said. "This is litigation that two years from now we'll still be talking about. I think he'll appeal, appeal and appeal."