Last week, a federal U.S. judge tossed the defamation lawsuit of a Palestinian politician’s son. Why is the case worth noting? Because the decision set precedence: Anti-SLAPP arguments work in federal courts, not just state courts.
The Abbas Defamation Suit
In the summer of 2012, Jonathan Schanzer wrote a piece about Yasser Abbas; Foreign Policy Magazine published the missive. Entitled, “The Brothers Abbas: Are the sons of the Palestinian President growing rich off their father’s system?”, Schanzer’s piece raised questions about the link between Abbas’ business success and his family’s political connections. Upset by the insinuations, Abbas sued Schnazer and Foreign Policy for defamation.
The Abbas Defamation Ruling
After review, Judge Emmet Sullivan dismissed the case, agreeing with the defense’s anti-SLAPP motion. In Sullivan’s own words:
- “[T]he questions invite the reader to form her own judgments regarding the relationship between Mr. Abbas’s family ties and his admittedly great wealth.” And,
- “The reader could arrive at a number of different conclusions, a fact that Mr. Abbas acknowledges in his own complaint.…That Mr. Abbas would prefer that readers do not answer the questions in the affirmative is not sufficient to support his defamation claim.”
Anti-SLAPP OK In Federal Court
The central issue in the Abbas defamation suit was whether or not anti-SLAPP motions can be applied in federal courts. Judge Sullivan answered the question: Yes, defendants can use them.
In his decision, Sullivan punctuated his support of anti-SLAPP laws, opining that Abbas had previously threatened lawsuits as a way to “counter bad press” – the exact type of activity that anti-SLAPP laws are meant to thwart.
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