News Star Files Anti-SLAPP Motion in Defamation Lawsuit

The (Monroe) News Star, through its attorney William McNew of McNew, King, Mills, Burch & Landry, has filed a “special motion to strike” in the case Hakim v Gannett, a defamation lawsuit filed last April by Monroe businessman Eddie Hakim.

Hakim alleged that the News Star defamed him in news articles written about his testimony in the recent federal trial of former Monroe City Council members Arthur Gilmore and Robert “Red” Stevens. Hakim was the chief prosecution witness in that trial.

The special motion to strike is often referred to as an “anti-SLAPP” motion, and is designed to defend against what are called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits.

The law regarding the special motions is Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure (CCP), Article 971, Special Motion to Strike.

Wikipedia defines SLAPP suits thus:

…a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

SLAPPs take various forms but the most common is a civil suit for defamation, which in the English common law tradition is a tort. The common law of libel dates to the early 17th century and (unusual in English law) is reverse onus, meaning, once accused, the defendant is presumed guilty until they can prove innocence.

In the memo in support of the motion, McNew wrote that:

(Plaintiff) sets forth conclusory allegations of defamation stemming from the use of two words to describe a portion of Plaintiffs three days of testimony in the numerous articles covering the twelve (12) day Federal criminal trial of two Monroe City Councilmen for bribery and racketeering.

Plaintiffs misconception of falsity is the belief that the press’s coverage of a live judicial proceeding spanning twelve (12) days without the benefit of a transcript must withstand a verbatim scrutiny applied by Plaintiffs counsel many months later armed with a transcript of the proceeding. It is apparent, that Plaintiff has compared all articles covering the trial with a transcript of the trial for the slightest deviation from exact words that appear in the transcript. This is an act of a man looking for an excuse to sue, not a man prompted to sue.

See here the documents.

Special Motion to Strike
Hearing Order
Memorandum in Support

A hearing on the motion is scheduled for 9:30 AM, July 27, Courtroom No. 6, Ouachita Parish court house, before Fourth Judicial (Morehouse, Ouachita parishes) District Division A Judge Scott Leehy.

Hakim’s attorney is Joe Guerriero of Monroe.

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