Attentive readers may recall that, some three years ago, a book on eminent domain called Bulldozed: “Kelo,” Eminent Domain and the American Lust for Land was the subject of a defamation suit brought by the wealthy Texas developer H. Walker Royall. Royall must have really disliked the book. He sued:
1. Encounter Books (of which I am the publisher);
2. The author, Carla Main;
3. The law professor Richard Epstein, whose tort was to have provided a blurb for the book (yes, you read that correctly: Epstein wrote a blurb: Royall sued him);
4. A Texas newspaper, whose sin was to have run a positive review of the book;
5. And the hapless author of that review.
The newspaper and the author of the review settled. The absurd case against Richard Epstein was dismissed. Carla and Encounter were able to fight on, thanks to the support of the Institute for Justice, which represented us.
There was a fair amount of commentary when the suit began, lo these many years ago. Carla Main and I published an op-ed on RealClearPolitics called “Trying to Bulldoze Free Speech.” Reason magazine had several illuminating pieces including this column by Jacob Sullum.
This summer a Texas Court determined that everything in the book was non-defamatory; ditto with all the associated charges against Carla, me, Richard Epstein, etc. etc. Now, at long last, the Court has entered an order of non-suit and the case has been dismissed with prejudice. I have an op-ed in the The Houston Chronicle about the history and implications of the case. “You would think by now,” I begin,
that Americans would understand that authors and publishers are free under the First Amendment to write and publish books on nearly any topic they want, especially topics of public importance. Evidently, however, that message never quite made it to an overly sensitive developer nor to a Texas trial court that refused to summarily dismiss the developer’s groundless libel claim against my publishing house and one of our authors — a lawsuit designed to silence our free speech.
Thankfully — after three long years of litigation and a unanimous appeals court decision that can only be called a legal smack-down — the developer at last quietly dropped his suit, thus ending a dark and dangerous legal fight. Authors, publishers and anyone else who cares about fostering public debate, free speech and freedom of the press should stand up a cheer.
Read the whole thing here.
I am delighted that this case came to such an agreeable conclusion and want to thank the Institute for Justice for helping us stand up against bullies and champion free speech and responsible investigative journalism.