That could mean you.
Because the New Jersey Law Journal published "Sanctions, Fees Top $280K After Defamation Suit Tossed" last night and, according to a (lawyer) friend:
This is the premiere legal publication for NJ lawyers. Every good, practicing NJ lawyer and judge reads this weekly. So this case will now be known statewide.You will have to register for a free limited membership to access the full article. But, unlike custom-news, there is no editorializing, moralizing or finger-wagging in the NJ Law Journal.
And the facts are not a pretty picture for the Plaintiffs nor their attorneys, Whitney Gibson of Vorys, Seymour, Sater and Pease, Amy Cox, and Jonathan Z. Cohen.
"In the July 8 ruling, Arre found the defendants fulfilled the procedural requirements of Rule 1:4-8 and N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1, which allows a prevailing party to collect legal fees and costs upon a showing that litigation was frivolous. He said the Bajardis "manipulated their attorney to perpetrate and perpetuate a SLAPP suit disguised as a defamation case involving weighty issues of constitutionally protected First Amendment political fee speech."GA hears that other legal journals have picked up the scent.
Gibson and Cox failed to conduct a reasonable inquiry into whether the allegations in the suit had evidentiary support, Arre said. And Cohen's claim that he had a reasonable basis to believe actual malice could be proven was contrary to evidence that the defendants' allegedly defamatory statements were substantially true.
The Bajardis never provided support for their claims of economic and reputational damage, and they were not forthcoming about the extent of their political involvement, Arre said. Their claims were pursued in bad faith with the purpose of harassment, delay and malicious injury, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2A:15-59.1, Arre said."
This case may become a national story. Maybe.
But for now it is a big story in New Jersey's legal community. Holding lawyers accountable for bringing garbage to court does not happen every day. Sanctions are a black mark on the record of any attorney, sanctions must be reported to their insurance carrier, and dog him/her throughout their career. This decision will chill legal spines, and (one hopes) make CRAPP suits rare events in New Jersey.
Another result (one hopes) is freedom from fear of retribution for unpopular political speech or speech critical of the rich and/or powerful.
An encouraging sign is seen below the HR article "Payback": the return of rtrux.
GA remembered that screen name; rtrux was one of many who disappeared in the aftermath of the 2012 SLAPP.
In today's comment, rtrux testifies to the chilling effect of the Bajardi's law suit on Hoboken's online political discourse; rtrux disappeared in 2012 because, "I didn't want Lane, Kim and Beth to sue me."
And that is the intended chilling effect of a SLAPP.
But... rtrux is back. Presumably he/she finds Arrre's decision safe harbor from attacks on his/her political speech, like the ones Bajardi v Pincus Defendants battled.
The return of rtrux is but one tiny example of how the Arre decision has strengthened First Amendment protections for ALL online political discourse in New Jersey.
But GA will leave the legal analysis to the lawyers, and we can expect plenty of that in the days ahead. Thank you, Judge Arre.