Property Rights

SLAPP Silly

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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.