Student Blogger SLAPP’d by Small Claims Judge

The Student Press Law Center reports:

A student blogger at the University of California at Berkeley lost a small claims libel lawsuit filed against him by a columnist whose articles the student’s blog scrutinized.

While exploring his remaining legal options following the June 13 decision, the student, Yaman Salahi, is asking for donations on his blog to help pay the $7,500 that the judge awarded to the columnist, Lee Kaplan.

Salahi started the blog in May 2006 to “take a critical look at [Kaplan’s] articles and point out inaccuracies or falsifications,” he said. Salahi said Kaplan is a local figure involved in covering student activism.

After repeatedly threatening litigation, Kaplan sued in September for libel and tortious business interference.

“Instead of criticizing my politics, he tried to go after my personal reputation as a journalist,” Kaplan said. “He put up things saying I’ve been sued for libel, that I’ve engaged in criminal activity, that I’ve violated contracts,” Kaplan said.

In the lawsuit, Kaplan alleged that Salahi called him a “douche bag,” but Salahi said the phrase never appeared on his blog. “He’s completely lying,” Kaplan said.

One might ask why the blogger did not fight the small claims lawsuit with an Anti-SLAPP motion to strike. The answer, according to the Student Press Law Center: “the judge dismissed Salahi’s anti-SLAPP motion as inappropriate for small claims court.” The blogger has set up a legal defense fund that you can access here. While I don’t agree with this particular blogger’s politics, this sure seems like an example of a SLAPP suit which should concern bloggers everywhere.

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