And the beat goes on with this North Carolina Slapp Suit

If you thought this case was over after both sides came out saying the Michigan Judge threw this case out for multiple reasons, well you and I would all be wrong.

It appears Susan Barrett of North Carolina has had her fill of not only this SLAPP Lawsuit but the issues that seem to still be taking place on Facebook surrounding the County Shelter Animals in her State.

My question is, where are the other 4 Defendants or the 3 original Plaintiffs? Did they all go into hiding after this lawsuit or what?

At first I must say I was not sure why Susan Barrett kept keeping the “HEAT” on her as she did but after following this Federal Lawsuit for the entire year of 2012, catching up on all the players of this game on Facebook it seems that there is a huge possibility that a much bigger issue is taking place here. Is Susan Barrett onto something that we haven’t caught up on yet? If nothing else I will say that she seems to be very confident on the issue at hand and it doesn’t seem like anyone or anything is going to stop her from telling her side of the story. So for that reason alone Susan Barrett,I say POWER On as if you keep going down this same path I have no doubt at some point you will get what you are looking for or what you’re working on as with determination like this there is no way you won’t find it.

Story line listed below

WILMINGTON, NC (WSFX) – “As a physician I am sworn to protect the health of the people I take care of in any way possible,” said Dr. David Hill, Pediatrician.
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In February of 2010, he and a woman named Kayne Darrell took concerns about Titan cement coming to New Hanover County straight to the county commissioners.

By February of 2011 both were facing a $75,000 lawsuit. Titan called the public comments slander and in the lawsuit claimed they were made knowingly without facts just to cause public friction. Dr. Hill says otherwise.

“After researching the affects of the sorts of pollutants that cement plants put out, I was quite convinced that increases in those pollutants in our area would endanger the very children that I take care of, including my own children,” said Dr. Hill.

Animals are Susan Barrett’s passion. She is the founder of North Carolina Shelter Rescue Inc. “I’m definitely a North Carolina animal advocate, I do rescue shelter animals that are on death row,” said Susan Barrett, North Carolina Rescue League.

She and four other people, including two from Southport and Whiteville, were sued individually for a total of $150,000 for speaking out on facebook about another animal rescue group called Seven Star Sanctuary. That group has people in Michigan, Wisconsin and England.

“Some of us kind of watch how many animals someone is pulling. This particular group out of Michigan started pulling a tremendous amount of animals from Columbus County. Then when we started pulling the kennel cards but none of their names were on any of the kennel cards. They were actually using a NC registered rescue 501C-3,” said Barrett.
Barrett and others then found out the same group was taking the animals they took out of the shelter to several veterinarian offices and leaving them and enormous vet bills behind. We found at least seven vets offices that cared for these animals.

We did a news story on one in Pender County that has yet to be paid in full. Other vet’s offices involved are in Robeson County and Dunn. The vet bills totaled more than a $130,000. When I called those offices, I found many have not been paid in full yet. And many have cut all ties with Seven Star Sanctuary.

It was after all this happened, that Barrett and started posting things on facebook.

“We only posted exactly what took place here in North Carolina that the Vet’s backed up with their own unpaid bills and with the kennel cards from the shelter,” said Barrett. But Seven Star Sanctuary sued saying the posts damaged their credibility.
But these citizens were speaking their beliefs. And in a country filled with free speech, some say, it’s a dangerous precedent to have citizens getting sued.

“It’s not just what’s going on with my case. I’ve started researching it we have a tremendous amount of these slap suits going on in North Carolina. They’re clogging up our court system that is already over burdened. The legislators here need to realize what’s going on and jump on board like some of the other states do and get that anti-slapp regulation passed,” said Barrett.

State Rep. Susi Hamilton believes legislation called ANTI-SLAPP is needed. SLAPP stands for strategic litigation against public participation.

“It provides them with some protection for speaking their opinion and giving their thoughts to whatever the issue is at hand without being threatened by a lawsuit by a larger industry or organization with deep pockets and lawyers and attorneys and staff that can pursue those kinds of lawsuits where in the case of the private citizen who is speaking out about a certain issue those citizens would be responsible for their own legal fees, ” said Rep. Susi Hamilton.

“I had no idea that I could be persecuted in that way for doing what I felt was my job,” said Dr. Hill.

Right now there are 28 states with ANTI-SLAPP laws. The North Carolina bill introduced by Representative Hamilton did not make it out of committee last year. But Hamilton says it could be brought up again this year.
Copyright 2012 Fox Wilmington. All rights reserved.

Link to watch the video, (please click below)

Sued but not silent

Sued for criticizing an animal rescue group, activists seek to kick-start the anti-SLAPP movement in the Carolinas Before she was sued in a state that she had never visited by people from as far away as South Wales for making defamatory online comments about an animal rescue group, Susan Barrett didn’t know much of anything about strategic lawsuits against public participation.

Now, though, the Winston-Salem woman’s bank account is hurting, her blood pressure is up and she is encouraging lawmakers to renew stalled efforts to enact anti-SLAPP regulations that would make it more difficult for corporations and other well-heeled litigants to silence their critics with the threat of costly litigation.

“This is desperately needed,” she said. “They’ve been trying to silence our freedom of speech. They’ve totally ruined our lives.”

Barrett is one of five animal rights activists who have spent the past seven months fending off a federal lawsuit filed in Michigan that accused them of taking to Facebook and Craigslist to attack an out-of-state group called Seven Star Sanctuary and Rescue Inc. The other four defendants are Peter MacQueen of Southport, N.C.; Patricia Lambert of Whiteville, N.C.; Andie Cavanaugh of Columbia, S.C.; and Yolanda Rios of Pennsylvania.

Seven Star and its far-flung members raise money to rescue dogs and cats from shelters that routinely kill animals that aren’t adopted within a certain timeframe. But Barrett and her co-defendants have criticized the group for rescuing animals from local shelters, but then abandoning them at veterinary offices and pocketing the donations.

“There are a tremendous amount of these animals left throughout eastern North Carolina,” said Barrett, who added that an estimated 2,000 animals that were picked up by Seven Star are unaccounted for and the group still owes thousands of dollars to at least seven area vets.
“This isn’t the first group to do this,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of Northern groups come down here and create a whole lot of messes.”

A U.S. District Court judge in Michigan dismissed Seven Star’s defamation suit for lack of jurisdiction on July 19, but the fight appears far from over. Barrett said that she and her co-defendants expect to be sued by Seven Star in another jurisdiction. Meanwhile, Barrett was planning a countersuit alleging defamation and emotional distress.

“Right now we’re out $15,000 in legal fees and we know this isn’t finished,” she said. “Seven months of our lives have already been destroyed.”

The attorney who represented Barrett and her co-defendants, Stephen F. MacGuidwin of the Varnum law firm in Grand Rapids, Mich., declined comment. Attorneys for Seven Star, Kenneth Hardin and Nicole Thompson of Hardin Thompson in Southfield, Mich., did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Legislative efforts fell short
Anti-SLAPP bills have been introduced in the North and South Carolina legislatures, but the proposals have failed to gain momentum, whether it be from lack of bipartisan support or opposition from big business.

In S.C., the Citizens Participation in Government Act was filed in 2009 and has remained in the House judiciary committee ever since. Its sole sponsor, Rep. James E. Smith Jr., a Democrat and Columbia lawyer, was traveling out of the country and could not be reached for comment.

Last year in N.C., the Citizens Protection Act was filed after building-materials company Titan America sued a pediatrician and homemaker for speaking out against its controversial plan to build a cement plant near Wilmington along the banks of the Cape Fear River.
The bill never made it into committee and its co-sponsor, Rep. Susi H. Hamilton, a Democrat in New Hanover County, was unaware of any immediate plans to revive the legislation when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.

“If there is interest in revisiting it next year, then I would be onboard,” she added. “To me, it’s an important bit of legislation. As long as we’re telling the truth, no one should worry about speaking out.”

So far, 28 states and the District of Columbia have enacted anti-SLAPP regulations, which allow their courts to scrutinize whether censorship was the sole motivation behind a suit and, if that’s the case, order plaintiffs to pay attorneys’ fees, legal costs and even damages.
“You at least give some of these SLAPP plaintiffs a reason to pause,” said Gary K. Shipman of Shipman & Wright in Wilmington. He defended the two New Hanover County residents in the Titan libel suit, which has settled.

He advised that any attorney who is defending a client against what appears to be a SLAPP suit in the Carolinas or other states that have yet to enact regulations should still air their suspicions before the court from the outset.

“You need to act on your belief early in the process,” he said. “If you don’t, by the time you get to the summary judgment stage the court may be less focused on the reason for the case than what the evidence seems to suggest.”

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Anti-Slapp Lawsuit Blogs picks up the Michigan Federal Lawsuit Case

Exposure can be a great thing for some and a bigger world of hurt for others and is why I would say prior to ever filing in any court room ask yourself, are you ready for everything and anything to come out about your life? Most of us would say NO right off the bat but for some the warning signs are never enough to deter a bad game of poker.

Who knows how they did it, but the Defendants in this Lawsuit were able to gain presence for this Michigan Federal Lawsuit by adding a “Guest Blog” to one of the ANTI SLAPP movements websites, called the PPP. ( Public Participation Project). One would think at going to such lengths that they must have more evidence on their end than first posted on any Facebook page or maybe it’s just they are 100% committed to their stance on what brought them all together.

Either way I feel this one case has much value to all in the Animal Rescue World and Legal field, time and time again we see different spin off legal cases hitting our court room based around Facebook. However most the cases we have seen have fallen flat on their face one has to ask, it is the incident that occurred, the factually evidence or that the Laws and Laws Firms today have yet not caught up with cyber technology? I feel this is just the beginning to a back log of Facebook legal issues that will be hitting all our courthouses very soon.

To view the PPP website and Quest Blog please click here:

Or the short version without the comments:

Yolanda Rios
With each passing moment the need for a federal law to stop SLAPP lawsuits grows as innocent people are being robbed of the most fundamental of freedoms, the Freedom of Speech. Laws and court systems that were meant to protect individuals are instead being abused and twisted to the benefit of others. SLAPP Lawsuits, designed to censor, intimidate, and silence individuals while burdening them with cost of legal fees, have grown steadily and are now rampant in our society and there is very little that has been done at the legislative level to stop them. Some states have enacted Anti-SLAPP laws but many still have not. For example, North Carolina does not have an Anti-SLAPP law while Pennsylvania has a very limited one that only applies to those petitioning the government over environmental issues. While the need for such legislation is abundantly clear the average person does not understand how critical this is and the only way for anyone to understand the serious repercussions of a SLAPP lawsuit is to examine cases that have been built around them.

One such case was recently filed in the state of Michigan, to which I am one of several defendants. A Federal case was filed by a group of individuals from various states and the UK (Mary Jo Thomas, Melissa Impens, Seven Star Sanctuary and Rescue, and Penelope Shaw-Ashenhurst) against another group of individuals from various states (Yolanda Rios, Susan Barrett, Pat Lambert, Peter MacQueen, and Andie Cavanaugh) citing slander and libel based on comments made on Facebook and other forums. The plaintiffs claim that defamatory posts were made with respect to their animals rescue efforts and that as a result of those posts they were unable to collect the funds needed to not only continue their rescue efforts but also to pay the various vets they owe money to in the state of North Carolina. Upon reading this initial snippet of information here one would gather the plaintiffs have a valid case but upon further examination of the court document itself and the facts revolving around the case one can clearly see it is not only without merit but by definition is a SLAPP lawsuit. SLAPP Lawsuits are not designed to go to trial or be won, they are designed to chill freedom of speech and press by bankrupting the defendant. They are clearly designed to stifle the voice of public advocates who speak out on controversial issues.

The lawsuit itself is nothing more than 17 pages of ridiculously put together babble, full of cut and pasted comments taken from Facebook and other forums. Upon reading it one would think it was put together by a fifth grade and not an attorney. But even more disturbing is the fact that of 25 allegations being made by the plaintiffs only a handful of the comments listed were actually posted by the defendants; those few comments not being based on assumptions, on lies, or on heresy, but on verifiable facts.
Facts such as:

1. The plaintiffs listed orchestrated and participated in the pulling of mass numbers of animals from a number of shelters in North Carolina such as the Columbus County Animal Shelter. Over 2000 animals were pulled by them from that one shelter alone and to date are unaccounted for. The plaintiffs are not part of any rescue entity or organization even though the lawsuit lists them as part of Seven Star Sanctuary. Kennel cards were obtained for the past year from this shelter that show these individuals pulled animals under another organization’s 501C3. To date these individuals are still participating in these actions.

2. Seven Star Sanctuary is registered in the state of Kentucky only, not in Michigan where this case was filed. The Kentucky location has their 501c3 listed with the IRS but the Michigan location is still not properly licensed with their own state. Not before the lawsuit, during the filing of the lawsuit or even as of last week. In addition all of the events occurred in North Carolina and in cyber space, not in Michigan as is claimed by the plaintiffs.

3. The plaintiffs who claim to all be part of this organization orchestrated and participated in the creation of various chipins for fundraising. These funds were to be used to vet the animals they pulled from shelters yet instead of vetting these animals hundreds were left abandoned in vet offices across North Carolina with outstanding vet bills ranging in the thousands. One of these vets just recently came forward with their story:

4. Animals that were not abandoned in vet offices were transported across state lines, from areas in the south where Distemper and Parvo are prevalent, with no vetting or health certificates as required by law and not by APHIS licensed transporters. Health Certificate records were obtained from the department of Agriculture in North Carolina for the past year to confirm this fact was indeed true and the plaintiffs openly posted their transport plans on Facebook. More information can be found here:
The rest of the comments, which make up the majority of the lawsuit, were not posted by the defendants but rather by other individuals not named in the lawsuit, such as Shelter Shame, or on others forums, such as Craig’s List. How exactly can anyone be held accountable for comments made by others? As stated previously, further investigation into the case not only reveals how ridiculous it truly is but how it is nothing more than an attempt to silence criticism of questionable rescue tactics and the breaking of multiple state and federal laws. This lawsuit is but one example of many out there. More information about this lawsuit can be obtained here: and here:

Unless one is going thru a SLAPP lawsuit one cannot fully understand the implications or the damage these lawsuits can cause. One cannot comprehend the violation of rights nor the cost to the defendants trying to fight them. One can simply not fathom the danger the public is put in because of those that wish to suppress freedom of speech. Sadly until a federal anti-SLAPP statute is put in place, these meritless lawsuits will continue to not only to consume court resources, but to silence many advocates trying to warn the public.

This site provides no legal advice, and no representation is made as to the completeness or accuracy of the information presented. Links to news and commentary do not necessarily reflect the views of PPP.

The Judgement is in, now what?

July 19, 2012 Judge Bell made his ruling on this case and found it would not be heard in his courtroom nor in the State of Michigan and granted the Defendants motion to dismiss based on lack of jurisdiction.

Many will agree with Judge Bell’s ruling for the simple fact that each incident and common allegation steamed from the State of North Carolina. So will the Plaintiffs now head to North Carolina to refill this case, will we be seeing the Defendants counter suing for damages, or will this be the end to this case completely?

Who paid for all these legal bills and where did all this money come from? If you listen to the rumour mill from the Plaintiffs they spent around $13,000.00, if you listen to the rumour mill for the Defendants it’s cost them about $15,000.00 and they still have growing legal bills. Such a waste of about $20,000.00 that could of been better used for animals in need don’t you think?

Was this only a money making machine from the beginning for the two laws firms, they seem to be the only winners here so far. Maybe each of these Law Firms will make a donation in the above listed amounts to North Carolina Shelter Animals since they are at the very root of this case and are the only reason all these parties came together. Law Firms make donations and write cases off all the time as pro-bono work, maybe this is the time for the lawyers involved in this case to reflect on how to make some positive difference in this world and make a charity donation for the animals versus making profit off a case that clearly the Plaintiffs Firm had to know was a waste of money and time let alone how in the world did the Defendants rack up such a high Legal Bill for a simple motion to dismiss?

So let’s take a bite of the apple and reflect, could we slow people down from running into court just because someone hurt your feelings? Or maybe you were the cause of your own pain yet you refused to change your own patterns and found filing a lawsuit was an easier choice for you, maybe look to yourself and ask why do I need to head to court before you sign on the dotted line, as so many forget when you head to court it’s the truth and nothing but the truth, not your version of the truth as you make it out to be. Judges were not born yesterday and they have seen just about every trick in the deck, so unless hands down you are a true victim with no hand in the cookie jar I suggest you stay away from any courthouse. Verification of facts will be a top priority for a judge before he signs his name on any ruling.

Either way each of this case’s as we see them come thru the courts only hurt the animals further, as each case with it’s crazy twists and turns shows the General Public just how corrupt animal rescue can get and you all lose creditability to further help the animals you all claim to want to save. Are you here for them or are you really here for yourself?

CCAC Dog’s Looking for new homes, Pender Post

Dogs looking for new homes – again Posted: Friday, September 16, 2011 12:29 pm   Updated: 12:30 pm, Fri Sep 16, 2011.           

Dogs looking for new homes – again    Jefferson Weaver The Pender Post

A number of dogs taken from the Columbus County Animal Shelter by a rescue group may be returning to their hometown.
Peter MacQueen of the Eastern North Carolina chapter of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said the dogs are currently housed at Dr. Cynthia Burnette’s Animal Hospital in Burgaw. Burnette has boarded and kept the dogs for several months while an out-of-state animal rescue group attempted to find them homes.

Many of the animals required extensive medical care, and Burnette is reportedly asking Melissa Impens and Pennash Columbus County Animal Control Rescue (CCaC) to pay thousands of dollars for the animals’ care.

Another Pender County vet clinic, Rocky Point Animal Hospital, recently began adopting out animals left behind with past-due bills from CCaC. That facility is working with the Sunburst Foundation to screen potential new pet owners.

A woman who answered the phone at Burnette’s office Wednesday said there was no truth to rumors that the dogs would be put down by Friday if they were not adopted. She did confirm that Burnette’s staff is trying to find homes for the dogs. She refused to comment further, and said Burnette would provide additional comments later.

CCaC is a chip-in organization, which uses Facebook and other social media to raise money to rescue shelter animals. Columbus County is often targeted by such rescue groups because unwanted animals at the shelter are regularly destroyed if adoption efforts fail.

Steve Throneburg of Pender County Animal Control said he had heard Burnette may turn the animals over to the shelter there, which is a limited-kill shelter, but he had no details.

Columbus County Animal Control Supervisor Rossie Hayes said Wednesday he had not heard that the Columbus County dogs may make a return trip to the same shelter they were taken from earlier this year.

“I know nothing about it,” he said. “We’re tight on space, though, so I am not sure what we would do. I am not really sure I can do anything.”

MacQueen said Burnette has refused offers from“legitimate” rescue organizations like the national HSUS to allow them to take the dogs. Burnette is reportedly trying to sell some of the animals, all mixed-breeds, for $305 to $500 each to recoup some of her costs in caring and boarding the animals.

“She said no,”MacQueen said.

This isn’t the first time CCaC has been in the spotlight for its rescue efforts. The group is currently involved in a legal fight with a Columbus County family over a dog named Smokey that was picked up at the shelter and adopted, even while the family was attempting to recover the dog. Teresa McPherson and her husband offered to pay Smokey’s bills at Burnette’s office but were refused.

Animals pulled from the Columbus shelter by the CCaC were also confiscated from a Pitt County woman’s home recently.

According to published reports, around 50 animals were seized as part of an animal cruelty investigation.

The Humane Society of the United States, working with Pitt and Beaufort animal control agencies, seized more than 50 dogs, ducks and chickens, and two hybrid wolves at a woman’s home in Pitt County.

Officials said the animals were living in poor conditions, some were emaciated and others had minor injuries and sores. Some could not be socialized and had to be due to temperament and physical condition. No charges have been filed in that case. The owner of the home was reportedly active with CCaC and many of the dogs came from Columbus County.

MacQueen said his organization cannot afford to pay the bills at Burnette’s clinic, but is willing to adopt the animals and find homes for them to avoid their being returned to an animal shelter, where they might be killed.

“It would be a shame when there are legitimate rescuers out there willing to help for these animals to be killed over money,” he said.

Hayes said if the dogs did come back to Columbus County, “we’ll do all we can to place them.”

“It’s a shame,” he said.

Link to the article

Michigan Attorney’s Interest in NC HSUS Property Raids

HSUS of NC along with other State & County Agencies raided a property of Cathy Campbell in Pitt County NC which we have spoken about earlier in this blog, however these two screen shots have just come to light referencing the property raid that took place which lead to 21 animal cruelty charges still going thru the court system one year later.

I do find it an odd coincidence that in the center of this raid posting on NC HSUS FB page is Nicole Thompson of the Hardin Law Firm in Michigan who again is the Law Firm that filed this Federal Lawsuit on these other Animal Advocates.  ( click on picture for larger view)

Why are so many people in Michigan keyed in to North Carolina Animal Issues? Why of all places to post on FaceBook would attorney Nicole Thompson be trying to debate with the NC HSUS FaceBook page on the events that took place and who was euthanized? This does make one wonder how close is the connection of Nicole Thompson and the CCAC Rescue Team?

Is the Hardin Law Firm taking on this case pro-bono for their attorney on staff Nicole Thompson? Could this be the real reason that this case was ever filed to begin with? One has to wonder now as things have been taking a turn and it seems from the outside looking in these defendants have been railroad by the abuse of power from a Law Firm that has very strong ties to this whole case and issues that are taking place in North Carolina.

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Good or Bad for Internet User’s?

A new bill in Albany has its sights set on anonymous internet trolls. The Internet Protection Act would require sites to have online commenters identify themselves.

“This statute would essentially destroy the ability to speak anonymously online on sites in New York,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff attorney with the Center for Democracy and Technology, according to Wired, adding that the bill allows a “heckler’s veto to anybody who disagrees with or doesn’t like what an anonymous poster said.”

Albany will likely have to think of another solution to cyberbullying, a real problem.

(Gawker be warned.)

Assemblyman Jim Conte (R-Huntington Station) explained that the legislation “turns the spotlight on cyber-bullies by forcing them to reveal their identity or have their post removed.”

The legislation would also prevent people from posting anonymous criticisms of businesses. “Too often, rival businesses will post negative and false posts to hurt their competition,” writes Conte.

And lastly, the bills would help politicians. Conte again: “…the legislation will help cut down on the types of mean-spirited and baseless political attacks that add nothing to the real debate and merely seek to falsely tarnish the opponent’s reputation by using the anonymity of the Web.”

There have been no votes yet on the measure, introduced in both the Senate and Assembly. If The Act were to pass, however, it likely wouldn’t stand to constitutional muster. (See: First Amendment)

To read the full story click on the link below