As of a few short days ago, Pennsylvania’s Superior Court dismissed the SLAPP suit I have been a named resident in for quite some time. It has been over the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Malvern/Frazer. The original suit was filed June 27, 2017 in the Court of Common Pleas in Chester County by the site developer.
In August of 2017, Judge Sommers, the judge who presided over the case in Chester County dismissed the suit. After that, an appeal was filed by the developer’s attorneys in Superior Court.
I have no idea if there will be an appeal by the plaintiff up to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Almost a year ago the Superior Court appeal was filed. It was filed right around the time PA State Senator Larry Farnese held a press conference I could not attend on anti-SLAPP legislation. I sent in a statement. Here is part of what I said then (in italics):
As children we are taught how the founding fathers of this great nation fought, bled,
and died for our rights and freedoms. Yet today, in a modern world, it feels like we still
must fight against injustice and for our very freedoms and, in my opinion, freedom of
speech and expression is particularly threatened. As a native of Philadelphia, the
birthplace of our American freedoms, I find that deeply troubling.
As a blogger, I have been aware of SLAPP suits for years. This year, I became embroiled in one, in Chester County, where I live. The suit is over the potential development of an old factory site in Malvern, East Whiteland Township known as Bishop Tube. I am a resident of East Whiteland Township.
I had written about the Bishop Tube site on my blog. I am not the only one who has
ever written about it or ever has had questions about it. The site has also been written
about in newspaper articles off and on for many years. According to the Pennsylvania
Department of Environmental Protection (“PA DEP”), there is TCE contamination on
this site. (Reference the PA DEP website’s Bishop Tube page).
I am a breast cancer survivor who underwent breast cancer treatment and, as a
survivor, a site like this should be a concern in my opinion. As a resident I should also
be able to express my opinions and/or ask questions. SLAPP suits are an invasive, fearsome kind of thing. Finding oneself in the middle of something like this feels like you are being bullied and harassed. It can also be unbearably costly. Frequently the suit bringer hopes this is what will defeat you.
Mostly, it makes you wonder about the good and honor of human kind.
Caring about where you live is not wrong, it is democracy in action. When people take
an interest in where they live, it is a powerful force. It is rarely easy for the residents
involved, and I think it does take great courage.
Our American freedoms are a real thing, not just lofty ideals tucked away in a 200+ year-old vault. Think about that as we are also on the eve of 9/11. Never forget September 11, 2001. This is yet another date in the annals of U.S. history which will live in infamy. Remember all those souls and first responders who lost their lives. They lost their lives because of our American ideals and freedoms even if they were not lives specifically lost on a battlefield in combat.
I can’t believe tomorrow it is 17 years already since 9/11.
I will close with saying thank you to Maya van Rossum and the Delaware Riverkeeper Network and their amazing lawyers, Mark L. Freed and Jordan B. Yeager of Curtin & Heefner LLP. I will also thank my own attorney, Samuel Stretton of West Chester.
Our inalienable rights as Americans exist for good reason. Hopefully this issue is now at a close, but again, who knows? We live in strange times.
Here is the media coverage thus far along with what the Delaware Riverkeeper has said:
State court ruling favors Chesco residents protesting brownfield development
by Vinny Vella, Philadelphia Inquirer
State Impact PA SEPTEMBER 07, 2018 | 05:48 PM
Court rejects developer’s effort to block protest against town homes plan
Delaware Riverkeeper Network says suit tried to silence its right to free speech
by Jon Hurdle
Daily Local News: Lawsuit denied concerning Bishop Tube site
Digital First Media Sep 7, 2018
Law360: Pa. Developer’s Defamation Suit Against Enviros Stays Nixed
By Matt Fair
Delaware Riverkeeper Network: SLAPP Suit Filed By Developer Against Environmental & Community Opposition Struck Down by PA Superior Court