DETROIT- Supporting the public's right to speak out on public issues without fear of retaliation, a Macomb County Circuit Court judge dismissed a lawsuit against Janet Donahue, a woman who complained about noise from a neighboring steel business.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, who had filed a friend-of-court brief in the SLAPP suit case, lauded the decision of Judge Pat Donofrio to reject the business' attempt to silence legitimate complaints of citizens.
SLAPP or "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation," is the name given to lawsuits brought to chill people from exercising their freedom of speech on matters of public concern.
"Kendor Steel's lawsuit was an abuse of the legal process. It was brought by a well-financed neighborhood bully to intimidate residents brave enough to stand up for their rights," said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan Executive Director. "This case illustrates the need for legislation to protect citizens rights to speak out against wrong-doing."
After Kendor Steel, in Fraser, Michigan, installed a 500-ton stamping press in June 1999, Ms. Donahue and her neighbors allege that a once-quiet neighborhood began experiencing intolerable and continuous pounding and vibrations that has yet to stop.
Ms. Donahue and her neighbors complained to the City's Building Department, the City Manager, the City Council, and the Police Department from the onset of the problem until the fall of 2000. Immediately following the one and only ticket Kendor received, Ms. Donahue was served with a lawsuit in retaliation for the complaints she made.
Though the dismissal of the case against Ms. Donahue does nothing to stop the underlying noise problem, she said that she is delighted with the judge's decision. "When the ACLU got involved, I was no longer afraid to speak out and knew that I could win - God Bless the ACLU!"
Judge Donofrio held that Kendor Steel's claims of malicious prosecution and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Ms. Donohue were meritless. He also adopted the position of the ACLU that Ms. Donohue had a constitutional right to complain to the police about the noise.