Wyoming family targeted by fired library director’s lawsuit answers with powerful motion to dismiss.
Family sued for exposing obscene books in library and complaining.
Lawsuit revealed as completely frivolous and meant to intimidate community and others.
MassResistance working to file anti-SLAPP legislation.
January 30, 2024
The family in Campbell County, Wyoming being targeted by the fired library director’s federal lawsuit is not intimidated. They have responded with a strong Motion to Dismiss that debunks everything the lawsuit charges them with.
Outrageous lawsuit against local family
Former Campbell County Library Director Terri Lesley was fired by the Library Board this past July for refusing to follow the Board’s new policy regarding obscene books. In a bizarre and outrageous move, on September 27, Lesley filed a federal lawsuit against local citizens Hugh and Susan Bennett and their adult son Kevin.
The Bennetts did what people around the country are doing. They spoke up at public meetings about the sexually graphic books in their public library. Hugh wrote about the problem in a paper he publishes. And they asked the county prosecutor to decide whether the state obscenity laws are being violated.
Even though the Library Board – not the Bennetts – fired her, Lesley chose to harass that family. Her absurd list of alleged offenses includes violating the so-called Ku Klux Klan Act, unlawful and unconstitutional conduct, civil conspiracy, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and “abuse of process” claims.
The lawsuit is clearly meant not only to punish the Bennetts, but to terrorize other parents into silence. Lesley is being represented by a far-left Colorado-based “attack” lawyer who worked with the LGBT organization Wyoming Equality to get a federal judge to strike down Wyoming’s gay marriage ban. The lawyer has said, “I like to go back there [to Wyoming] and just mess with the state as much as I can.”
The Bennetts are being represented by a solid law firm in Florida that appears to be extremely skilled at dealing with this sort of “lawfare” case.
Fighting back with powerful motion to dismiss
The Motion to Dismiss basically debunks everything in Lesley’s lawsuit. It’s a great read! For example:
- The text of the lawsuit is largely incendiary rhetoric and descriptions of actions of others in the community, with very few factual allegations of the Bennetts’ actions.
- The Ku Klux Klan Act claim is utterly ridiculous. Nothing in that act remotely connects to anything the Bennetts did.
- The “civil conspiracy” charge does not square with the legal definition. And Lesley fails to identify any “right” that is protected from these so-called conspiracies.
- Lesley’s attempt to claim “defamation” is beyond the one-year statute of limitations, so it cannot apply. Even so, it does not square with the legal requirements of defamation liability. And since Lesley is a public figure, that also disqualifies her from making this charge.
- Regarding alleged “intentional emotional distress,” Lesley cannot cite any “extreme and outrageous conduct” by the Bennetts or facts to back up the “severe emotional distress” that she supposedly endured.
- Lesley is not able to describe any actual “unlawful and unconstitutional conduct.” The Bennetts, like all other citizens, have broad First Amendment rights to criticize public officials. Lesley cannot be permitted to make a claim against them for expressing their opinions.
- Lesley’s allegations do not square with the requirements for an “abuse of process” claim. Her charges about the Bennetts contacting the Sheriff concerning the books (that they maliciously filed a false claim) are basically the opposite of what actually happened. The Bennetts simply filed a complaint asking the local authorities to determine if there was a violation of the law. It took the Sheriff and County Attorney considerable time and research to come to a conclusion.
- Lesley’s lawsuit attempts to blame the Bennetts for the Library Board firing her. Lesley was a public figure and government official who placed herself in the forefront of an incredibly divisive issue being debated throughout our country.
As the Motion to Dismiss concludes:
At its heart, Plaintiff’s Complaint takes issue with the public advocacy performed by Defendants (successfully). That is not a basis for civil liability under the Ku Klux Klan Act, common law civil conspiracy, common law defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, or abuse of process. This Court should dismiss Plaintiff’s Amended Complaint with prejudice.
Anti-SLAPP laws exist to stop such harassment of citizens
In 33 states (though not in Wyoming), citizens are protected from this disgusting sort of “lawfare” harassment by anti-SLAPP laws.
What is SLAPP? Short for strategic lawsuits against public participation, SLAPP lawsuits have become a common tool for intimidating and silencing criticism through expensive, baseless legal proceedings.
Wikipedia’s description: “In a typical SLAPP, the plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff's goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs, or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. In some cases, repeated frivolous litigation against a defendant may raise the cost of directors and officers liability insurance for that party, interfering with an organization's ability to operate. A SLAPP may also intimidate others from participating in the debate.”
Anti-SLAPP laws are meant to provide a remedy to SLAPP lawsuits. The intent is to prevent people from using courts, and potential threats of a lawsuit, to intimidate people who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
Anti-SLAPP laws typically include provisions for an expedited process to dismiss meritless lawsuits early in the litigation process. They often provide for the recovery of attorney's fees and other costs incurred by the defendant in defending against the SLAPP lawsuit.
Unfortunately, Wyoming does not have an anti-SLAPP law. But MassResistance has already begun working with legislators in Wyoming (and other states) to change that!
We will keep you updated on all of this!
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