Proving the Unprovable in SLAPP Response

You may recall the legal battle between Tiverton Citizens for Change (TCC) President and current Town Council Member David Nelson and form Town Council Members Louise Durfee and Joanne Arruda. The latest development is thut Superior Court Judge Melanie Thunberg has denied Nelson’s request for a summary judgment. According to a Sakonnet Times article, not online:

Lawyers for both sides said in separate interviews that the reason Judge Thunberg ruled as she did was that she believed a key fact was in dispute.
Jeffrey Schreck, who represents Ms. Arruda and Ms. Durfee, said the “critical disputed fact was whether Mr. Nelson knew that what he was saying was false.”
Jennifer Azevedo, the lawyer representing Mr. Nelson, said Judge Thunberg believed “there were facts in dispute with respect to whether Mr. Nelson did or did not know that the statements he made were false.”

One needn’t be intimately familiar with the case to wonder how it could even be conceivably true that Nelson knew the offending statement, which follows, to be inaccurate (if it was, indeed, inaccurate, which is similarly impossible to prove):

Still worse are the efforts of Ms Durfee, Joanne Arruda and their allies, in deliberate cooperation with the Town Administrator to avoid a Town Council vote exceeding the State Tax cap. They have submitted false documentation to the State to facilitate a tax increase of at least 9%.

It is simply beyond debate that Durfee and Arruda worked “to avoid a Town Council vote.” And it wouldn’t be possible to prove that they weren’t, in some way, included in a group of “allies,” with Goncalo as the point person, that submitted false documents to the state — much less that Nelson knew that when the events were still fresh.
The concern that Dave has, which I share, is that so immense would be the scope of communications necessary to determine that he knowingly fabricated the cooperation that Durfee, Arruda, and their political allies would gain access during the discovery process to a veritable book of politically relevant communications between Nelson and his own allies.

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Aldo
Aldo
10 years ago

Having gone through a SLAPP suit in RI, I can state unequivocally that the RI Judiciary is absolutely CLUELESS.
In point of fact, “Justice” Thunberg, was one of the judges in my SLAPP-Back suit, so I am writing with some authority.
The RIGL pertaining to SLAPP suits is very clear, ands states in part: “The legislature finds and declares that full participation by persons and organizations and robust discussion of issues of public concern before the legislative, judicial, and administrative bodies and in other public fora are essential to the democratic process, that there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for the redress of grievances; that such litigation is disfavored and should be resolved quickly with minimum cost to citizens who have participated in matters of public concern.”
That being said, the RI Judiciary seems to ignore the last statement and often drags out the proceedings at a great cost to the defendant. In our case, total costs approached $100,000!!!!
Most members of the RI Judiciary don’t really take into consideration the costs involved as they are receiving their $140,000 + salary in any case.
I have not doubt that Mr. Nelson will prevail.
That said, I would encourage him to file a Countersuit or SLAPP-Back action at this juncture in order to preserve his right to obtain punitive damages.
Monique has my e-mail address if you wish me to provide further information.

Monique
Editor
10 years ago

“It is simply beyond debate that Durfee and Arruda worked “to avoid a Town Council vote.””
Indeed, avoiding a Town Council vote was, in fact, the central goal of the extensive maneuvering and machinations of these council members. They wanted a tax increase but didn’t want to get tagged with it. Such profiles in courage.

triplerichard
triplerichard
10 years ago

Monique, how are you so clear on the intentions of other people? Are you familiar with all the players here in
Tiverton or are you just defending Justin and his allies.

John
John
10 years ago

This can only be seen as further evidence that RI is now, effectively, a Latin American country, with the same legal protections and justice system that we have seen over the years in countless tinpot dictatorships.
Anybody with an ounce of sense and the means to do so should leave this rapidly sinking ship.

Rob Coulter
Rob Coulter
10 years ago

I’d say both the article and Justin’s analysis are way too fast to skip over the threshhold issue, which is that the documentation submitted to the state *was* false in both its actual content and in the larger context. It is not impossible to prove the accuracy of what Mr. Nelson claimed because the documents speak for themselves. They weren’t the Budget Committee’s numbers. They weren’t what was published as official notice to the people. They bore the name but not the signature or knowledge of the Town Council President. The Town Administrator tried to keep them secret in a file labeled “fake”. Several town officials protested what was being attempted. So Mr. Nelson will likely prevail without even seeking to discover what was in his head because the documents were false and several town officials said so; his statements were therefore accurate, and truth is a complete defense to defamation claims. This case is exactly the type of abuse that the anti-SLAPP statute is meant to address.

triplerichard
triplerichard
10 years ago

Rob could you please provide us with the names of those officials who protested and what evidence is their that the file said fake. Fake would be like publishing one copy of a document and then trying to shove the another one in front of people who had never had a chance to review it.

triplerichard
triplerichard
10 years ago

Rob could you please provide us with the names of those officials who protested and what evidence is their that the file said fake. Fake would be like publishing one copy of a document and then trying to shove the another one in front of people who had never had a chance to review it.

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