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“They have nothing to go on,” says Todd Paglia, executive director of Stand.Earth, one of the defendants in the case filed by Resolute Forest Products, who had previously filed a case that was dismissed under anti-SLAPP legislation
DIMITRI LASCARIS: This is Dimitri Lascaris reporting for The Real News Network from Montreal, Canada. For the past two years Canada’s largest logging company Resolute Forest Products has pursued a $300 million lawsuit against the environmental organization Stand.earth and Greenpeace. In its lawsuit Resolute alleged defamation and racketeering arising from the environmentalist’s anti-logging campaign. Last fall a United States district court judge dismissed Resolute’s lawsuit under anti-SLAPP legislation which is designed to eliminate frivolous strategic lawsuits whose overarching purpose is to silence the defendants.
Based on that legislation, the court awarded attorney’s fees to Stand.earth and Greenpeace which is a departure from the normal litigation rule in the United States that litigants pay their own attorney’s fees even when they win. It looked like the green groups had won but it turns out that Resolute is well, extremely resolute. It has now slapped Stand.earth and Greenpeace with another lawsuit and an expanded complaint.
Here to discuss this new lawsuit I am pleased to be joined by Todd Paglia, Executive Director of Stand.earth. Todd joins us today from Bellingham, Washington. Thanks for coming back on The Real News, Todd.
TODD PAGLIA: Glad to be here. Wish it was for a different reason.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: I imagine. So, let’s start with the “new” lawsuit and I say that in quotation marks. What in essence are the new allegations being advanced by Resolute?
TODD PAGLIA: So, I used to be a lawyer so just to be technical for a moment, it’s not an actual new lawsuit. It is, although we did win a full dismissal with attorney’s fees and legally the court determined this was a SLAPP lawsuit, a strategic lawsuit against public participation. They also, though, allowed because it’s in the Ninth Circuit, they allowed Resolute to amend their complaint which is essentially a do-over.
The Ninth Circuit sort of bends over backwards to give plaintiff’s even if they’re a billion dollar logging company every chance to get a judicial remedy, and having been beaten so badly most companies would just go home and not spend millions more on a lawsuit that’s getting them nowhere. Resolute instead decided to redo the lawsuit, use their do-over and file the 226-page complaint that was their amended complaint.
The bottom line is there’s not a whole lot new in it. There’s very little chance that they’re going to win but they’re accomplishing part of what they want which is the reason you and I are here talking. The lawsuit goes on. That’s what they want is for it to just keep going on, drain our resources, drain our focus. That’s their goal. So far, they’re failing. But that’s why they refiled I believe.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, Resolute’s attorney Michael J. Bowe said, “False statements made with malice have never been protected speech under our law,” and he further said that the judge previously ruled we needed to allege more facts showing malice. We alleged a mountain of new facts showing malice. Do you, how do you respond to that claim?
TODD PAGLIA: Not even quite a molehill. They’ve come up with nothing new. They’ve spent, our attorneys estimate between $500,000 and $1 million more on the new complaint with I believe the singular goal of just extending this. They’re going to lose. They’re going to lose badly. And with regard to their lawsuit against me personally and against my organization, they have come up with nothing. Not even so much as a false statement, let alone a statement made with malice. So, they have really nothing to go on and a lot of money to spend and that’s the nature of a SLAPP lawsuit.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And in Stand.earth’s campaign against Resolute, it accused Resolute of effectively destroying forests. What was the essential basis of that claim?
TODD PAGLIA: It’s really basic. So, there was a forest there. They come in, clear cut vast areas of it and then there’s not a forest there. So, thus it was destroyed. And what we’ve seen in areas where Resolute has operated for decades and decades is fewer and fewer intact forest areas, fewer and fewer areas where caribou which is sort of a signal species that the boreal forest can survive and satellite imagery and direct photos of what they do to the landscape is more than enough evidence to show what they’re doing.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Previously you and I spoke about Resolute’s tactics as part of a new corporate playbook of companies trying to tie up environmental groups in constant legal battles. The legislation, the anti-SLAPP legislation seemed to have worked. But now Resolute is back. In your mind, does this raise a question about whether the anti-SLAPP legislation is strong enough to stop these tactics, and in particular in order for it to really work, shouldn’t defendants once these cases are dismissed, be barred from bringing forward another claim which is based essentially on the same core facts?
TODD PAGLIA: So, the SLAPP lawsuit protection in California is the strongest in the nation and it’s probably not quite strong enough. That’s partly due to the law itself and it’s partly due to the fact that we are operating in a district court that’s part of the Ninth Circuit. So, the Ninth Circuit is incredibly liberal in allowing plaintiffs any way possible to state a lawsuit and get a judicial remedy. And so, bending over backwards when individual citizen is an undergone and suing a huge company for poisoning their neighborhood or all sorts of different things that companies do, I understand.
But the Ninth Circuit with this blanket rule, they basically treat me suing a company the same as a multi-billion dollar company suing me, and Resolute simply shouldn’t have had a second chance but that’s the Ninth Circuit and we’re dealing with it. So, I think that law probably needs to be strengthened. The Ninth Circuit needs to look a little closer than one size fits all.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: Well, we’ve been speaking to Todd Paglia, Executive Director of Stand.earth about yet another lawsuit by the largest Canadian logging company Resolute Forest Products against Stand.earth. Thanks very much for joining us today, Todd.
TODD PAGLIA: Thanks Dimitri.
DIMITRI LASCARIS: And this is Dimitri Lascaris reporting from Montreal for The Real News.