A case that could decide whether the Massachusetts anti-SLAPP statute applies to journalists comes up for argument Monday before the Supreme Judicial Court. The case, Fustolo v. Hollander, involves a libel lawsuit filed by real estate developer Steven C. Fustolo against Fredda Hollander, a reporter for a community newspaper in Boston's North End and a long-time community activist.
Hollander sought to have the lawsuit dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute, which is designed to protect against the use of litigation to silence a person's "exercise of its right of petition." The right of petition refers to an individual's First Amendment right to address the government with regard to issues of public concern.
A Superior Court judge denied the motion. The judge concluded that Hollander had written the news stories at issue in the lawsuit not "on her own behalf as a citizen" but "in the role of a reporter paid and employed by the publisher of a newspaper." The ruling is at odds with another Superior Court case, Joyce v. Slager, which allowed a newspaper's motion to dismiss a libel case under the anti-SLAPP law.
Those interested in the case can watch the webcast of the arguments before the SJC. You can read the briefs filed by the parties here.