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The Commons
Voices / Letters from readers

Legal implications sidebar: more commentary than reportage

Originally published in The Commons issue #458 (Wednesday, May 9, 2018). This story appeared on page E4.


RE: “The not-so-fine line between free speech and defamation” [Special Focus, Apr. 18]:

Shouldn’t such commentary be indicated as such, in contrast to the admirably straight reporting in the rest of this special section?

As to its implication that Peter Rizzo’s threat of a lawsuit is akin to a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) action, the Media Law Resource Center describes SLAPP as a “retaliatory lawsuit brought to intimidate and silence opponents or critics who had spoken out in the public sphere, typically on land use and development issues.”

Regarding Chandler v. Rutland Herald Publishing, they write: “The article was a matter of public concern and plaintiff failed to produce any evidence that the article was ‘devoid of any reasonable factual support and any arguable basis in law’ and that defendants’ acts caused actual injury’ as required by the statute.” This case most certainly is not comparable, since Rizzo and his yoga studio are a private concern.

Furthermore, civilization has long recognized the right of the accused to question his accusers, which is codified in the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. That may indeed be “re-traumatizing” but without testing such accusations, there is no rule of law, only the mob.

Olaf Errwigge


Brattleboro

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