FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tongue-in-cheek SLAPPies honors worst legal bullies, including Chevron, Devin Nunes, and the Lawfare Project
Washington DC. June 25, 2020 . Last year was another banner year for legal intimidation, aggressive lawsuits, and bullying tactics in the United States. Corporate bullies increasingly resorted to using Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to clamp down on people power and silence free speech.
But we have fought back, joining together to form the 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 another competitive year, but without further ado, here are the awards for the biggest legal bullies of the year:
The Corporate Bully of the Year Awarded
Chevron wins this award for the second time. In 2019 Chevron elevated its efforts to escape responsibility for dumping billions of gallons of toxic oil waste in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The company used a SLAPP win to rewrite history denying ANY evidence of contamination and their continued efforts to silence the opposing lawyer, Steven Donziger included requesting the court force him to turn over his email password, computer and phone. Donziger refused, and despite lawfully appealing the order he has been held in pre-trial criminal contempt for over nine months.
Chevron also made headlines in the last weeks for how it responded to mass protests against racism and police brutality. Chevron was not only been called out for attempting to present itself as anti-racist while continuing operations that disproportionately harm Black communities and communities of color around the globe, but it was exposed as having hired a PR firm to spread false information that the climate movement is “harming the Black community”.
Chevron’s response to criticism continues to be to attack and undermine its critics and their rights to free speech.
Most Outrageous SLAPP Award
The Lawfare Project uses the court system to stifle constitutionally protected free speech related to Israel and Palestine worldwide by operating as an attack-dog for the far right, deploying frivolous lawsuits and smear campaigns against any critics of Israel. Professors at Kingsborough Community College in New York City have been targeted by the Lawfare Project for organizing progressive faculty on campus.
Belly Flop Award
Devin Nunes is an Republican congressman and former dairy farmer from California. He was Chair of the House Intelligence Committee from 2015 to 2019 and a member of President Trump’s transition team. Rep. Nunes was so angered by a story in his hometown newspaper, the Fresno Bee, claiming that investors in a winery he partly owns partied with cocaine and prostitutes that he decided to sue them in Virginia for $150 million.
The month before, he filed a defamation lawsuit against Twitter, Liz Mair, Mair Strategies LLC, and the Twitter accounts, “Devin Nunes’s Mom” (@DevinNunesMom) and “Devin Nunes’s Cow” (@DevinCow), seeking $250 million in damages (this case was just dismissed). A few months later, Nunes sued political journalist Ryan Lizza and Hearst Magazines, the publisher of Esquire, alleging that a 2018 Esquire story had damaged his reputation. Lizza wrote that Nunes’s family had “secretly” moved its dairy operation from California to Iowa in 2007. The same month, Nunes sued the liberal nonprofit Campaign for Accountability (CfA) and the opposition research firm Fusion GPS. The latter was hired to dig up dirt on Trump at the behest of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In December, Nunes sued CNN for alleged defamation. The complaint stated, “CNN is the mother of fake news. It is the least trusted name. CNN is eroding the fabric of America, proselytizing, sowing distrust and disharmony.”
The Protect the Protest task force aims 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. An attack on one is an attack on all!
Valentina Stackl, Protect the Protest task force, (734) 276 6260, firstname.lastname@example.org