Federal Judge Chides Andrew Breitbart for ‘Overreaching’ in Shirley Sherrod Lawsuit
Things aren’t going very well for Andrew Breitbart in the defamation lawsuit filed against him by former USDA official Shirley Sherrod, and now Breitbart and his lawyers have been scolded by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon (a George W. Bush appointee): Federal Judge: Blogger Likely ‘Overreaching’ With Anti-SLAPP Motion.
In a new filing (PDF) this afternoon, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon expressed his displeasure with a decision by defendants in a defamation lawsuit to appeal his denial of their motion to dismiss.
At issue is former U.S. Department of Agriculture official Shirley Sherrod’s defamation lawsuit against blogger Andrew Breitbart and one of his colleagues, Larry O’Connor. Sherrod sued both men in Washington federal court in Feb. 2011, claiming they posted a deceptively edited clip of Sherrod online that eventually got her fired.
Breitbart and O’Connor moved to dismiss the case under a District of Columbia law barring strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. The anti-SLAPP law is designed to stop litigation aimed at chilling protected speech. Leon denied the motion in July in two-sentence minute orders. After the defendants’ appealed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asked Leon on Feb. 7 to explain his decision.
In the statement of reasons filed today, Leon said he denied the motion because the law, which went into effect last March, couldn’t be applied retroactively to Sherrod’s case, which was filed the month before. Even if the law could be applied retroactively, Leon wrote that the defendants missed their time window to file the motion.
“Regrettably,” Leon wrote, “it appears that the defendants will not be satisfied with this Court’s ruling until a considerable amount of additional judicial and litigant resources are expended on its ‘novel,’ if not overreaching, motion.”