The Protect the Protest task force announces first-annual accolades for biggest legal bullies and shadiest lawyers of the year to coincide with the Academy Awards.
For immediate release: February, 25, 2019
Washington, DC — Last year was a banner year for legal intimidation, aggressive lawsuits, and bully tactics in the United States. Corporate bullies increasingly resorted to utilizing Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) as a means of clamping down on people power and silencing free speech.
But organizations fought back, joining together to form the international Protect the Protest task force, a group of over 20 organizations combining their expertise and collective power to protect free speech, defend dissent, and stop SLAPPs.
It was a competitive year for the launch of Protect the Protest’s first-annual SLAPP Awards, and the runners up are worth reading about through this link. But without further ado, here are the awards for the biggest legal bullies and shadiest lawyers of the year.
- Corporate Bully of the Year Award: Chevron
Chevron’s litigation strategy in 2018 followed the same playbook it has used for years: bully, harass, intimidate. Despite winning its retaliatory lawsuit against human rights attorney Steven Donziger, Chevron has only ramped up its bully tactics in what has been described as the “vengeance stage” of its 25-year long legal effort to avoid accountability for oil spills in Ecuador.
- Bully Lawyer of the Year Award: Charles Harder
Charles Harder is President Trump’s legal attack dog and the most prolific SLAPP plaintiff in recent U.S. history. He’s threatened the New York Times more than once, New York Magazine, TechDirt, Gawker’s sister site Jezebel, and the Daily Mail — all on behalf of clients like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and Melania Trump. He also sent cease-and-desist letters to Steve Bannon and the publisher of Michael Wolff’s book Fire and Fury, prompting them to move forward the publication date due to unprecedented demand and sell 1.75 million copies.
- Belly Flop Award: Shiva Ayyadurai v. TechDirt
The Belly Flop Award is reserved each year for SLAPPs or acts of legal intimidation that backfire, belly-flop, or otherwise leave the plaintiff red faced. As the Daily Beast put it, the “intimidating winning streak” of Shiva Ayyadurai’s lawyer, Charles Harder, came to an abrupt end with this $15 million lawsuit, which was dismissed with prejudice within six months. Rather than succeeding in bankrupting TechDirt (as Harder had managed to do with Gawker), the website raised around $250,000 and established a new section focused specifically on free speech.
- Silliest SLAPP Award: ETP v. Greenpeace et al.
Truly this year’s most competitive category. An early favourite was certainly Bob Murray’s lawsuit against John Oliver and HBO, but the prize ultimately went to Energy Transfer Partners, whose lawsuit — arguing that advocacy groups form a criminal enterprise to “control, direct and incite acts of terrorism” — scraped the most conspiratorial corners of the alt-right web.
- Golden Toilet Award: Resolute Forest Products
The Golden Toilet Award is reserved for SLAPPs that represent an extraordinary waste of time and money. This year’s prize goes to Resolute Forest Products, which is entering its seventh year of litigation against Greenpeace offices in the U.S. and Canada.
Nowadays, it seems a corporation or high-ranking businessman can’t even engage in a light spot of environmental destruction, harassment, or treason without some pesky activist or journalist getting in the way. These first-annual SLAPP Awards may be tongue in cheek, but the underlying issue certainly isn’t.
Read the full list of SLAPP Awards, including first place winners and runners up.
Protect the Protest is a campaign to erase the threat that SLAPP lawsuits pose to free speech and the ability of nonprofit organizations to advocate for a better world. Our organizations work on different issues, but we are all threatened by these shameless tactics. Together, we will protect our right to speak out, to criticize, to engage, and to protest.
Valentina Stackl, Communications Manager
(202) 466 5188 x100