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February 22, 2013

Media weigh in on Wallbuilders case


“Defendants across the state are relying on this new statute,” attorneys for Jennings and Bell-Metereau stated in the petition filed in October requesting the state’s highest court look at the issue. “The question of whether appellate protections are available when a person is sued for exercising their constitutional rights ‘to petition, speak freely, associate freely and otherwise participate in government’ is one of such importance that it should be decided by this court.”

“The appeals court ruling is completely out of synch with the Texas Legislature’s intent and with the interpretations of anti-SLAPP statutes around the country,” Reporters Committee Executive Director Bruce D. Brown said in a statement.

“Because its decision effectively kills a defendant’s right to appeal a special motion to dismiss that was denied by the trial court, we hope the state Supreme Court will review and reverse the appellate decision.”

“The interpretation by the court of appeals effectively transforms the appeals provision from a right of appeal to a right of one-time judicial review — a motion under the TCPA [Texas Citizen Participation Act] is either reviewed by the trial court or by the appellate court, but never by both,” the brief states.

Other organizations who joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in filing the brief include: ABC Inc.; A&E Television Networks LLC; A.H. Belo Corp.; Advance Publications Inc.; Belo Corp.; The Associated Press; CBS Broadcasting Inc.; Dow Jones & Co. Inc.; E.W. Scripps Co.; Fox Television Stations Inc.; Gannett Co. Inc.; Hearst Corp.; KVIA-TV, Austin; The McClatchy Co.; Media Law Resource Center; NBCUniversal Media LLC; The New York Times Co.; Public Citizen Inc.; Public Participation Project; The Texas Association of Broadcasters; and The Texas Press Association.

It’s an issue that’s also of interest in another high profile Parker County case.

A week after the Jennings and Bell-Metereau denial, the Second Court of Appeals made a similar decision in an appeal regarding the anti-SLAPP law by Steven and Shyla Lipsky, who are being sued for defamation by Range Resources.

They’ve also requested the state’s top court weigh in on the same issue in their case.

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