The latest salvo in Daniel Snyder v. Washington City Paper does away with formalities. In a filing aimed at keeping his suit alive in D.C. Superior Court, plaintiff Snyder starts out with a broadside at the publication:
Defendant Dave McKenna wrote, and Defendant Washington City Paper published, among other things, that Dan Snyder “got caught forging names as a telemarketer at Snyder Communications.” This statement specifically and unambiguously accuses Dan Snyder of committing the crime of forgery. The phrase “as a telemarketer with Snyder Communications” underscores that the statement is about Dan Snyder personally committing a crime, and not, as Defendants now assert, about Snyder Communications being involved in a telephone “slamming” case in 2001.
At issue in this filing is the City Paper’s previous argument that the Snyder suit should be dismissed based on the city’s statute against Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP). Anti-SLAPP statutes, as the name suggests, are designed to protect defendants against litigation designed solely to intimidate them.
Snyder’s lawyers have built a multi-tiered argument against dismissal of the case on these grounds, and part of it won’t please the D.C. voting-rights crowd. The filing states, point blank, that the D.C. Council, which authored the city’s anti-SLAPP legislation, didn’t have the authority to do so. To quote from the complaint:
“Just as sure as ‘Congress shall make no law . . . prohibiting the freedom of speech,’ so, too, the D.C. Council may make no law with respect to the manner in which the D.C. Superior Court conducts its affairs.” Then the document invokes Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which gives Congress the power to “Exercise exclusive legislation” over the District of Columbia. Further, it notes that Congress has “expressly” prohibited the District from effecting “any act, resolution, or rule with respect to any provision of Title 11 of the District of Columbia code (relating to organization and jurisdiction of the District of Columbia courts).”
The filing raises other concerns about the applicability of the anti-SLAPP statute to the current case. And even if the court were to declare the statute relevant, argues the filing, Snyder’s case stands strong on the merits:
In response to the encyclopedic tirade against Mr. Snyder encompassing virtually everything negative that Defendants could drag out that ever had anything to do with his personal or business life, Mr. Snyder has exercised laudable restraint, bringing suit for libel per se for only three statements, two of which accused Mr. Snyder of criminal conduct and the third impugning his reputation as a business man.
“Laudable restraint” may not describe Snyder’s initial suit back in February in a New York court. In that filing, Snyder raised the now-famous allegations about an anti-Semitic illustration on the City Paper’s cover, among many others. His second filing, in the District, was more limited. (Disclosure: I formerly worked as editor of the City Paper but had no involvement in the story that is the subject of the Snyder suit.)
The three “statements”that Snyder continues to contest are the telecom-forgery allegation; that Snyder “cut down trees protected by the National Park Service” and “made a great view of the Potomac River for himself by going all Agent Orange on federally protected lands”; and that Snyder was “tossed off” the Six Flags board of directors.
The brief claims that each of these contentions is false and that continuation of the suit will allow the plaintiff to prove as much.
UPDATE: Post has been changed to add a disclosure. I apologize for the omission.