Thomas More Society wins in defamation lawsuit

From the Thomas More Society:

(September 11, 2014 ??? Chicago, IL) ??? Yesterday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit issued its decision to dismiss the appeal brought by Satkar Hospitality Inc. against Illinois Review, a conservative news blog. In 2011, Satkar sued Illinois Review for defamation. The U.S. District Court dismissed the lawsuit, but Satkar appealed the decision, and in May, 2013, Thomas More Society brought oral arguments in defense of Illinois Review before the Seventh Circuit.

“We’re very pleased that this blatant attempt to silence aggressive political reporting has been finally rejected by the courts,” said Peter Breen, Thomas More Society vice president and senior counsel. ???Illinois Review has a First Amendment right to speak out on controversial issues, and frivolous lawsuits should not be permitted to shut down their free speech.???

In April, 2009, Illinois Review published documents of public record showing that former Illinois State Rep. Paul Froehlich sought campaign contributions from individuals who won property tax relief with his assistance. After the story ran, the Cook County Board of Review reversed the tax breaks. Satkar Hospitality, Inc., was one of the companies that Illinois Review reported as having donated to Froehlich???s campaign and later winning a property-tax appeal.

Satkar then sued Illinois Review, along with its editor, Fran Eaton, and publisher, Dennis LaComb, for defamation. After extensive briefing, the District Court dismissed the lawsuit against Illinois Review, Eaton, and LaComb on the basis of the Illinois Citizen Participation Act, which protects those engaged in First Amendment-protected speech from frivolous lawsuits. Satkar filed a late notice of appeal, with permission of the District Court.

Yesterday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the appeal and ended the case, holding that Satkar had no good reason to file a late appeal and should not have been given permission to do so by the District Court.

Satkar Hospitality, Inc., and co-plaintiffs Sharad K. Dani, and Harish Dani, had also sued the Cook County Board of Review, Fox Television Stations, Inc., Fox Chicago News, News Corp., and Fox Television Holdings, Inc., along with multiple individuals from those entities.

???We have laws in this country that protect journalists and affirm the public???s ???right to know???,??? Breen added. ???Our courts don???t want to waste time or taxpayer money on whiplash action that is thrown as a cover-up for practices of questionable legality.???

Read Seventh Circuit Decision here.