“Libel suit over someone calling a former Senator a ‘traitor’,” by Eugene Volokh, The Volokh Conspiracy, 3 August 2003, http://volokh.com/2003_08_03_volokh_archive.html#106029603806074744 (from Classical Values).
“Settlement reached in Abourezk’s “traitor list” lawsuit,” by Dennis Gale, Associated Press, 26 November 2005, http://www.aberdeennews.com/mld/aberdeennews/news/13264283.htm.
“Traitor List,” ProBush.com, accessed 27 November 2005, http://www.probush.com/traitor.htm.
Treason: Violation of allegiance toward one’s country or sovereign, especially the betrayal of one’s country by waging war against it or by consciously and purposely acting to aid its enemies.
Traitor: If you do not support our President’s decisions you are a traitor.
Get to know your traitor!
*Parody. Not to be taken seriously. These “traitors” are not legal “traitors” of the United States.
Note that I have nothing much against former Senator Jim Abourezk, except for the fact that his wife Sanaa’s recipes, published regularly in the Argus Leader, are awful.
Likewise, I’m not sure of the use nor lexicographical integrity of defining “traitor” as “if you do not support our President’s decisions you are a traitor.”
However, I am sure that this is a perfect example of a strategic lawsuit against public participation:
A settlement has been reached in a federal lawsuit that former U.S. Sen. James Abourezk filed against an Internet site that labeled him a traitor, lawyers for both sides said Saturday.
Abourezk, who’s of Arab descent, was a Democratic U.S. senator from 1973 to 1979 and now practices law in Sioux Falls. He accused ProBush.com of libel for putting him on a “traitor’s list” for criticizing President Bush.
Also named as defendants were Michael Marino, the site’s editor and publisher, and Ben Marino, co-owner. ProBush.com is headquartered in West Point, Penn., according to court documents.
More than two years ago The Volokh Conspiracy looked at this case
The rules under libel law are generally the same as the rules the Court discussed above; and under those rules, probush.com and other similar speakers should win. The site makes clear that by “traitor” it means those people who “do not support our President’s decisions.” Readers would understand that — as is often the case — the site is expressing a moral opinion about those who don’t support the President’s decisions, rather than making a factual claim about criminal actions that they have allegedly committed. I don’t approve of the site’s rhetoric; but its operators have a constitutional right to engage in it.
This stupid case, which has dragged on for years until ProBush got tired of defending its honor and agreed to pay a nominal fine of $1, while insisting that it was right, is an great case of why Anti-SLAPP laws are so important. Ever since nationmaster threatened to sue me I’ve been paying more attention of legal harassment of whistleblowers, from Canada to Illinois.
Anti-SLAPP laws, which make it clear that critical speech is not “defamation” and that legalistic harassers should pay for lawyer fees, are an important tool in curbing these attacks on the first amendment.
It is particularly sad that this latest outrage comes from my home state of South Dakota. That Senator Abourezk has followed in the long-line of former South Dakotan politicians whose families have grown mysteriously wealth does not bother me — that is life in our simple state, and is habit among both Republicans and Democrats.
But I expected better of Jim than suing a critic into silence.