22 June 2017

Coal in the Stocking Year-Round

Just a short note on a recent matter that epitomizes SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation):

On Sunday evening, John Oliver spent most of his Last Week Tonight broadcast on coal. The broadcast included both satirical and factual criticism of one particular coal magnate. Said magnate has now — as Oliver predicted he would, and consistent with his past (mis)conduct (and his attorneys' (mis)conduct, compare W. Va. R. Prof. Cond. 3.1 with New York Times v. Sullivan, 403 U.S. 713 (1971)) — filed a libel suit.

<SARCASM> There's an obvious factual problem with the claim that Oliver engaged in "ruthless character assassination" (Cmplt. ¶ 51): There was Ruth involved. Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, that is, as one of the majority in Caperton v. A.T. Massey Coal Co., 129 S. Ct. 2252 (2009), a matter mentioned during Oliver's broadcast segment. Indeed, it's easy to argue that Oliver was cleary with that Ruth, because the gravamen of the Last Week Tonight segment was that self-aggrandizing, self-interested magnates in the coal industry have engaged in substantial conduct to the prejudice of good government… and that is precisely what was at issue in Caperton.

Besides, that plaintiff (who will not get the dubious privilege of being named on this fine blawg) might not need his oxygen tank to survive (Cmplt. ¶ 5) if there were fewer coal particulates in the air. </SARCASM>

Frankly, given the respective track records, I have more confidence that Oliver and his team of comedy-oriented writers accurately stated the facts, and more to the point refrained from distorting third-party documents like the Federal Mine Safety and Health Administrations investigation of the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, than I do in the counsel who filed this SLAPP action.