Property Rights



I want to write a blog post about H. Walker Royall, the Dallas developer who sues people when they criticize his abuse of eminent domain, but I'm afraid he'll sue me. After all, he sued Wright Gore III over a website that detailed the city of Freeport's attempt to condemn land occupied by the Western Seafood Company, a business owned by Gore's family, so Royall could use it for a luxury marina project. And he sued Carla Main, a journalist who wrote a book about the legal struggle over the Gores' land, along with her publisher, Encounter Books. He sued University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein, one of the country's leading authorities on eminent domain, for writing a blurb that appeared on the cover of Main's book. He even sued a newspaper that published a review of the book.

So after thinking carefully about my potential legal exposure, I have decided not to say that Royall is an arrogant, thin-skinned cheater who thinks nothing of abusing the legal process and violating other people's rights to advance his business interests and protect his vanity. Although that opinion is completely protected by the First Amendment as criticism of a public figure and speech about an issue of public importance, Royall still could sue me. And as the Institute for Justice, which is representing Main, Epstein, and Encounter Books, points out, even if defamation lawsuits against critics of eminent domain abuse fail in court, "the large expenditure of time and money associated with defending them all too often accomplishes the goal of silencing those who stand up for their rights." With that in mind, I have decided to refrain from calling Royall a corrupt coward, a litigious leech, or a supersensitive censor. I encourage you to refrain from doing so as well.

But first you might want to read a bit more about Royall and his lawsuits. I.J. has some background here. I discussed another I.J.-highlighted effort to silence property rights activists here.

NEXT: Robert J. Samuelson on The Great Inflation and Its Aftermath

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  1. I don’t know anything about Royall other than what I’ve read “not” about him here, but I’m gonna go ahead and not call him an asshole.

  2. Thanks for the warning, Jacob. I was going to call Mr. Royall an idiot and a fool who abuses the courts for his own benefit. But now I’m not going to do it.

  3. I’ve always wondered, why don’t people who are sued so frivolously automatically countersue for wasted times/wages and their lawyers payments? Can that only be done under special circumstances or is it like karate chopping a gun, something people don’t think to do but might be able to do or might not? Can anybody shed light on this?

  4. And, I’ll point out that the way to deal with things like this is to not go after his lawyers.

    Hey, look, Reason beat me to it.

  5. No comment.

  6. Hey Royall! You’re an asshole! And a douchebag! I’ve been told you fondle underage livestock! Come and sue me you felcher!

    p.s. Donations to the Brandybuck Legal Defense Fund now being accepted…

  7. I’ve always wondered, why don’t people who are sued so frivolously automatically countersue for wasted times/wages and their lawyers payments?

    There’s actually a Federal Rule of Civil Procedure that provides for making the lawyer who files a civil suit pay. I’m sure all the states have similar rules.

    However, because the courts are stocked for the most part with gutless pussies (and, often, in state courts, with gutless pussies who collect campaign contributions from the attorneys who appear before them), this almost never happens.

  8. Oops. “civil suit” should be “frivolous suit”. No Freudian slip to see here. Just move along.

  9. If our legal system weren’t such a labyrinthine heap of spaghetti code, it wouldn’t be so expensive to defend oneself from frivolous lawsuits in court. There was a time, recall, when illiterate hog farmers could defend themselves in court.

  10. Why Jacob, you model of restraint. Or should I be accusing you of cowardice for not speaking your mind because of some bully?

  11. I thought libertarians were supposed to like a mustache-twirling, villainous rich guy like this. He’s one of our own, right?

    Just kidding. He sounds pretty much like the worst person ever. Well, besides OJ.

  12. Mr Pound sign fears no one!
    H. Walker Royall can go fuck himself.
    I’m surprised (NHRTFA) that the city of Freeport isn’t taxing the seafood company as if it was a luxury marina with a bunch of luxury condos already.That is the best way to “take” a fish house, pier, or working dock away from a private landowner who dares waste the precious tax base of waterfront property by doing something less productive than real estate development. Eminent domain isn’t really necessary.

  13. Royall sounds like exactly the kind of asshole who should be widely publicized as a reason to fight government land-grabbing under the “eminent domain” pretext.


  14. btw, he’s suing Professor Epstein? Really? You can’t sue Professor Epstein like that!

  15. Emphasize the positive: every dollar you spend defending against these lawsuits is one less dollar the government can take from you to pay for BailoutFever.

  16. Dude’s only got one connection on LinkedIn. I wonder if his litigious nature has made him unpopular?


  17. Mr. Sullum, I won’t see your apophasis, nor raise you one paraleipsis plus one preterition.

  18. The correct term for this sort of man is “fuck-ass”. H. Walker Royall is a fuck-ass. Sue me, fuck-ass.

  19. Yes, the myth of the frivolous suit. In theory, attorneys (and plaintiffs) can get into a world of hurt for abusing the system. In practice, they’re punished so rarely that we have, well, a screwed-up, highly litigious society.

  20. The location of the Western Seafood Company?
    Irony or not?

  21. Hmmm. This tactic, frivilously suing people who disparage you, reminds me of somebody…

    Oh yeah, completely different assholes.

    Same tactics and smell here though.

  22. Another job for the Censor (the state and federal versions thereof): Discipline attorneys. Take the disciplinary review process out of, you know, the freakin’ attorneys’ hands.

    Is there nothing the Censor cannot do?

  23. The location of the Western Seafood Company?
    Irony or not?

    It’s also right next to Ron Pauls district. Might even be in it.

  24. After a quick check, It is in Pauls district

  25. reason sucks

  26. “Loser pays” might curb this guy’s enthusiasm. If he loses a lawsuit (not that I’m saying he would ever lose a lawsuit – I said *if*), he would have to pay the reasonable attorney’s fees of the people he wrongly sued.

    Lawyers are of two minds about this reform. Some think it would chill their ability to represent plaintiffs. Others think it’s a way to force the other guy to pay your fees if he loses. Still others think “loser pays” is in the public interest.

  27. I heard a rumor that this Royall guy blows goats, but I don’t know how reliable that rumor is and don’t know if I should believe it. But I think we should be brave enough to ask questions.

    But actually, on the subject of SLAPP suits, I don’t like that designation. Community activists get to file all sorts of “procedural” law suits against businessmen all the time. Often, their law suits are openly designed to “slow down” projects or engage in other tactical maneuvers above and beyond the merits of the suits themselves. If it’s OK for people to file law suits specifically to cost businessmen money and make their activity more difficult, why isn’t it OK for businessmen to file lawsuits to make their opponents spend money and to make their activity more difficult? Because the grassroots is sacred and should have the right to have access to the courts, but businessmen are evil nasty orcses who should not have access to the courts? No thanks.

  28. I heard a rumor that this Royall guy blows goats,

    Fluffy, what did any goat ever do to deserve such a scandalous accusation? I think you owe goats everywhere an apology.



  30. What’s in it for me?

  31. Mad Max,

    You know what would have happened to Kelo, Raich, and all our other favorite libertarian heroes if “loser pays” had been in effect? They would have been ruined, paying the government’s years worth of legal bills.

    Loser pays would also wreck the whole contingency lawyer system (not to mention the pro bono system). As it stands now, poor people with legit grievances can file suit without much risk if they can convince a contingency lawyer (or one working pro bono) that they have a case. If “loser pays” is instituted, the poor won’t have that option.

    I’m all for getting rid of frivolous lawsuits, but let’s not quash legitimate ones in the process.

  32. H. Walker Royall is a sewer.

    Oops, I mispelled that, it’s suer. Sorry.

  33. Nobody comes to this libertard joint anyway, so you’re safe, Jake.

  34. “Royall still could sue me…”

    Given the right balance of forces–say, a great dimunition the the ability of the state to monopolize violence–Royall have a private police force hunt you down and kill you.

  35. Spreading untruth about the benefits and pleasures of sweet caprine love is an actionable offense.

    As is use of the word “goathole” in anything other than a tender, poetic manner.

  36. Rabbi Chanina, an assistant of the high priest said: Pray for the welfare of the government, since but for fear of it men would swallow each other alive. Pirkei Avot 2:3

  37. The state doesn’t have a monopoly on violence even now, even if they’ve got a huge market share (and they do seem to be trying to expand it at every opportunity).

    Oh, and Lefiti, let’s dispense with illusions; if someone knows who and where you are, and they’re willing to pay enough money, they can have you killed even now.

  38. Indeed, Tulpa, let’s dispense with illusions. In a world of private armies, life is cheap. Ask the Somalians.

  39. We do demonstrate how tax collection works

  40. Like your President elect and Central Bank we are spreading the wealth around.think of the ships as so many aspiring plumbers!

  41. The entire kat economy depends on us!

  42. Viz., late to the Party.

  43. ‘You know what would have happened to Kelo, Raich, and all our other favorite libertarian heroes if “loser pays” had been in effect? They would have been ruined, paying the government’s years worth of legal bills.’

    I was thinking more in terms of litigation among private parties, specifically suits for damages. Unsuccessful suits against the govt – and suits against govt employees in their *official* capacity – don’t really have a chilling effect on the govt – they’re used to being sued, and they don’t have to pay their own legal bills anyway.

    There would still be incentives for plaintiff lawyers to take cases they thought they could win, although some form of insurance might develop to cover the atty fees if you lose.

    In any event, the specific proposal would need to be studied before being passed – I’m open to further data.

  44. Jesus, people, have you all forgotten how to make a good Denny Hastert non-smear?

    WALLACE: You think he may be getting money from the drug cartel?

    HASTERT: I’m saying I don’t know where groups–could be people who support this type of thing. I’m saying we don’t know. The fact is we don’t know where this money comes from.

  45. Well, Max that’s the point — how do you write a law that distinguishes between lawsuits that have a chilling effect and those that don’t. Obviously, if a pauper like I sued the local giant supermarket chain over something silly, there’s not any chilling effect on them. But if the Church of Scientology sued them, it would be a different story. But how do you write this into law in a clear, non-discriminatory way?

  46. And I definitely agree that simplifying our legal codes would go a long way to ameliorating the damage done by these lawsuits. People should be able to defend themselves in civil matters.

  47. cunnivore,

    Whatever mix we end up with, some people are going to get screwed. Under the current system, people who are falsely-accused in civil cases generally are screwed by having to pay their own legal costs (there are exceptions, of course). If we go over to loser pays, there will inevitably be folks with meritorious claims who won’t be able to find a lawyer willing to take on their case – the extra risk of paying the defendant will outweigh the possible windfall in the case of victory. It may be possible, however, to mitigate this (eg, insurance). The devil’s in the details, naturally.

    In principle, the general rule should be that if you impose (reasonable) expenses on someone you’ve falsely accused in a private lawsuit, you should make compensation.

    Of course, lawsuits generally end up being settled, and settlement agreements tend to require each side to bear its own expenses. I don’t see that changing with settlements under a loser-pays system. The prospect of paying the defendant will be an extra incentive for plaintiffs to settle, just as the prospect of having to pay damages induces defendants to settle.

    One possibility: Just as civil juries impose damages on the defendant if it loses, maybe they could impose reasonable atty fees on the plaintiff if it loses, with the option of reducing the fees if the jurors think this would be unfair to he plaintiff.

    Like I say, whatever balance we end up with, some people will get screwed – just as lots of people are screwed today by having to defend against suits by this Texas guy (I’m referring to *another* Texas guy, someone who files bad suits – I’m not referring to that upstanding citizen who files *good* suits to vindicate himself against evil people who accuse him of exploiting the eminent domain laws.)

  48. by “impose reasonable expenses,” I mean “force someone to pay money to defend himself against false charges, assuming he spends only a reasonable amount of money.”

  49. Cunnivore,

    Think of the poor lawyers trying to pay back their student loans.

  50. If we simplify the legal codes and the court system so that people can defend themselves, nobody gets screwed.

    Except the lawyers, of course, which is why it’ll never happen.

  51. ,/ — give them a bailout and be done with it.

  52. It’s because he’s from Dallas. Dallas really, really sucks.

    And it’s snowing in Houston. 75 degrees yesterday, snowing tonight.

  53. My son is a fucking ass-sucker! And, sonny, if you try to sue me I’ll tell everybody about your little problem, so bite me. Oh, and would it hurt you to call once in a while.

  54. !!!klasd fjaksdfl asdk gjk cahas laskd1*)

  55. It’s because he’s from Dallas. Dallas really, really sucks.

    And it’s snowing in Houston. 75 degrees yesterday, snowing tonight.

    Tell me about it. I had people partying here and my mother called me…to tell me it was snowing in Houston.

  56. Uh, FTFM…

    It’s because he’s from Dallas. Dallas really, really sucks.

    And it’s snowing in Houston. 75 degrees yesterday, snowing tonight.

    Tell me about it. I had people partying here and my mother called me…to tell me it was snowing in Houston.

  57. Loser pays is a red herring reform.

    There are people who file frivolous lawsuits knowing they’ll lose, with the intent of imposing costs on their opponent – and the costs to their opponent are the goal of the suit. True. But this is a tiny problem relative to our legal system’s real problem, which is that suits that should be frivolous guaranteed losers often win, and because they often win they also often garner lucrative settlements.

    I’d be happy enough to run the risk that some dope would deliberately lose a lawsuit against me once every 25 years or so. I’d much rather try to do something to reduce the risk that some dope with a bullshit case based on an absurd theory of liability can file a case against me and win. That’s the real risk I face and the real problem with our system.

  58. I heard that H. Walker Royall lures small children into his car with the promise of running a candy factory on the land he just siezed, and then violates them in some of the more depraved and inhuman way known to the kiddie diddler community.

    I also heard that he wears women’s granny panties, is really a hermaphrodite with a VERY large vagina behind his bladder and at the BDSM club he belongs to, he’s the bitch to the bitches; he’s the submissive’s submissive. He’s also very fond of schiesse films and has personally starred in several.

    Or so I heard.

  59. Yo, fuck H. Walker Royall.

  60. doing something less productive than real estate development.

    What could be less productive than real estate development?

  61. I’ll not say Royal (sic), in former days, would have gotten an xtra large can of Texas whupass dumped on his pinhead.

  62. What could be less productive than real estate development?

    Before blasting real estate developers as a group, you might want to think about the nice places you’ve lived that were on, y’know, developed real estate.

    Like hookers, retailers, dope dealers, lawyers and turnip farmers, there are both moral and immoral real estate developers.

    H. Walker Royall apparently fits into the latter category.

  63. Oh man. I’m suing all of you, and I will get all of your things. Because that’s how this works. Do you know how SUED y’all just got? Y’all are SO sued.

  64. What could be less productive than real estate development?

    Posting comments on a website?

  65. LA LA LA LA LA! Rubbish and bullshit, that’s all that comes out of that foaming wound H. Walker Royall has, where the rest of us have a FACE!

    If the world were a perfect set of teeth, this guy would be plaque.

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