"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Ogden on Politics seconds nomination of Diana Vice for a Sammie Award

Hat tip to Paul Ogden for picking up and seconding our recommendation of Diana Vice for the 2008 Sammie Award. He goes into even more detail about Diana's accomplishments on his Ogden on Politics website and explains the SLAPP lawsuits.

You can nominate Diana by going to this link.


Nothing makes my blood boil more than a private company doing business with government, i.e. you and me, suing a private citizen who dares speak out about possible violations of the law by the company.

Not a fan of Wikipedia, but it has an excellent definition of what a SLAPP suit is all about:

"A Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation ("SLAPP") is a lawsuit or a threat of lawsuit that is intended to intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Winning the lawsuit is not necessarily the intent of the person filing the SLAPP. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate."

SLAPP suits are about a big company using their limitless financial resources to intimidate and silence private citizens who dare speak out about legal violations big company might be committing. This legal strategy is made possible by the American system of awarding attorney's fees which basically says that, with very few exceptions, both sides have to pay their own attorney in a lawsuit, regardless of the result. Big company knows that private citizen doesn't have the resources to pay an attorney and thus the company will bleed the person to death or until he or she agrees to stop criticizing big company.

Well Diana Vice, private citizen extraordinaire, spoke out about Tremco's inflated roofing charges to public school corporations and the failure of Tremco to go through the bidding process. She talked to everyone who would listen about the taxpayer rip-off, including legislators, members of the Daniels' administration and the Attorney General's Office. How did Tremco respond? By hiring a big law firm to sue her to shut her up. Well it didn't work and the other day the Indiana Attorney General's Office issued an opinion concluding that Diana Vice was correct that Tremco violated the law.

While the legislature has enacted a chapter, IC 34-7-7 et seq., dealing with protections for people confronted with SLAPP lawsuits, which includes making big company pay the little person's legal fees, the fact is judges remain instinctively reluctant to go against the American tradition of the litigants paying for their own attorney, win or lose.

There is a very simple way the legislature can put real meat onto the anti-SLAPP law. Public work contracts are already legally required to contain wage and anti-discrimination provisions. The legislature could simply pass a law that says that public works contracts must also include a provision that says if a company is found to have filed a SLAPP lawsuit under IC 34-7-7 et seq., the contract is void. Problem solved. No private company is going to want to risk using the legal process to intimidate a private citizen if the company is potentially going to lose the contract because of filing the lawsuit. To those companies, it is all about the green.

As a lawyer, I find nothing more despicable than a big company using a big law firm to intimidate a private citizen who does not have the resources to fight back. Personally I would not only pull Tremco's ticket from ever having a public works projects again, but I would also make an example of the big law firms which have aided Tremco in going after little ole' Diana Vice. Maybe that's overkill, but hey I'm an SOB on such matters. I do not think we lawyers should put aside our ethics and integrity because there is a big corporate client willing to pay us a lot of money.

On a more positive note, Melyssa over at Hoosiers For Fair Taxation has suggested the nomination of Diana, who runs the Welcome to My Tea Party blog, for the 2008 Sam Adams Alliance "Sunshine" Prize. I second that nomination. Here is a link that describes the award and what you need to do to vote. I would advise voting for Diana because of her courageous sacrifice on behalf of taxpayers. I'm sure the monetary prize would also come into use due to the tens of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees I'm sure she's on the hook for as a result of defending herself (and our rights) against Tremco's SLAP lawsuit. Hopefully the judge will eventually slap down Tremco. In the meantime, let's make Diana a winner of the "Sunshine" Prize.

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