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.

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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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