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: http://www.anti-slapp.org/recent/ppp-guest-blog-post-by-yolanda-rios

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: http://www.wect.com/story/18770752/vet-says-animal-rescue-group-hasnt-paid-18k-owed-for-services

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: http://www.examiner.com/article/friends-of-animals-warn-rescuers-to-take-proper-precautions-for-disease-control
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: http://westerndistrictofmichiganlawsuit.webs.com/ and here: http://www.facebook.com/ForThemWeSpeak

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.

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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.

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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?

Defendants appear to fight back in regards to the Lawsuit

I think we all waited to see how the defendants in this matter would react over time and now it seems they have moved forward to ask for help and are going to fight back.

A recent Facebook page had been added called ” For Them We Speak” along with a plea asking for donations to help them with their current legal bills.

It seems the current legal bill is over $10,000.00 and another $8,000.00 is needed just to defend this group of 5. Not knowing the legal system itself, one has to wonder why is this case still in the court system and racking up bills from what I would say for both sides? It does stop you in your tracks and make you reflect  on why this suit was initial filed doesn’t it? Is this a game of chicken we see playing out before our eyes ? Or is this a lawyers paradise of an endless billing process?  ( click on picture for larger view)

http://www.facebook.com/ForThemWeSpeak

http://wdofmichiganlawsuit112cv00074.chipin.com/mypages/view/id/2d08d49ff9c2aba0

Is using an unlicensed business name to take in donations fraud?

Is it legal or ethical to run under a business name and ask for public donations when you are not who you say you are or licensed under that name? Per the IRS guidelines the answer to that answer would be a big “NO”.  Maybe this is why there is so much outrage between so many in Facebook Animal Rescue. This example goes back to the Michigan Federal Court Case where the plaintiff Penelope Ashenhurt ( you see here) is tweeting for donations from the general public and uses the name CCAC Rescue Team. Penelope Ashenhurst lives in Tonypandy UK and the CCAC Shelter we keep hearing about is in Whiteville, North Carolina, this alone brings questions to my mind on why someone in the UK is asking for donations for a State Bound Animal Shelter.

I also called Columbus County Animal Control Shelter in Whiteville, NC and asked the staff there if Penelope Ashenhurst from the UK was an authorized employee of the shelter, the answer was NO. I then asked if she was indeed CCAC Rescue Team and the answer I received was, Ma’am I don’t know who she is or what she is doing but I get calls about her all the time and I know people give her a lot of money. Other than that I don’t know what to tell you, all these woman run on FaceBook and drive me crazy.

So Penelope Ashenhurst is indeed not CCAC Rescue Team legally, it’s just a business name that she gave herself to use. So what comes of all the money she has collected thru these Chip In’s, Tweets, Powabunga and more? That’s the unanswered question at the moment. Are these funds reported to the IRS or to any State within the US and if so under what name as still today I can not find a CCAC Rescue Team registered in 28 US States.

Maybe it’s time for people to verify if an Animal Rescue Group, Team or Organization is legally registered prior to hitting the send button with Paypal. After all you do want your funds going to the animal in the picture that caught your attention in the first place don’t you?

Lesson here, Buyer Beware.

Here’s What the Civil Justice System does with Frivolous Lawsuits

Attorney (877) 377-7848

Posted by Mark BelloAugust 31, 2011 12:31 PM

One of the catch phrases of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and tort reform groups is “frivolous lawsuits” – a lawsuit that has no legal basis, or is so petty, that suit isn’t justified. Unfortunately, more often than not, these pro-business, billion dollar corporate lobbying groups are claiming “lawsuit abuse” when they know the cases they seek to place restriction upon are anything but frivolous. Common sense will tell you, for example, that a “frivolous case” does not need a damages cap.

Today, I read about a case that illustrates what the system does with truly “frivolous” cases; I thought I would share it with you so that, hopefully, you can see the difference between what the tort reform groups are trying to regulate and a real “frivolous” case. The case I refer to involves an Illinois woman who was sued by her two adult children. The children alleged she was a “bad” mom. Their parents were divorced and the children lived with their dad in a $1.5 million home. They claimed their mother failed to send money inside their birthday cards, called her daughter home early from homecoming, and threatened to call the police on her son, then 7, if he didn’t buckle up in the car. The children sought $50,000 for emotional distress. The children’s lawyer was the woman’s ex-husband, the children’s father. The case was dismissed by a circuit court; the kids appealed. Last week, an Illinois appellate court ruled that the Circuit Court was correct in dismissing the case.

If the Chamber decided to lambast the filing of this case, I would agree with them. However, the Chamber would go too far in its criticism; the pro-business, anti-justice organizations would lie and say that a case like this is why the system needs to be reform and why we need damages caps and limited access to the civil justice system. But, let’s look at how the civil justice system handled this “frivolous” case.

The civil justice system has mechanisms in place to prevent and dismiss “frivolous” lawsuits, and mechanisms to punish those who bring them. The circuit court judge, who first heard the case, dismissed it without much consideration. The appeals court panel that reviewed the dismissal upheld that dismissal. Still to be determined is whether the plaintiff will be forced to pay court costs and attorney fees, a “frivolous” filing penalty that judges have discretion to assess.

The typical frivolous case ends with serious consequences to the lawyer and the plaintiff who brought it; the plaintiff who files suit, most often, loses and is assessed costs. The system built in these checks and balances so courts and juries will not waste time on meritless cases. Anyone can file a lawsuit, but the real question is whether the litigation has enough merit to sustain itself. If it doesn’t, as in this case, it will be dismissed and it will never see an impaneled jury. So, ask yourself why tort reform lobbying groups are seeking damages caps to combat “frivolous lawsuits”. Obviously, it is because they don’t want to tell you the truth. The truth? These pro-business lobbyists and public relations manipulators want to place damages caps on serious lawsuits, those with serious consequences, the ones that actually impact the profits of billion dollar corporations. The use of the buzz word “frivolous” is a smoke screen. They are masters at manipulating the truth to their greedy end.

So, now you know. The civil justice system already has checks and balances to eliminate “frivolous” cases. There is no need for “tort reform” to root them out. I blog, frequently, about this issue because I can’t stand the injustice of it. I can’t stand to see politicians, who I used to respect, taking campaign money from these billion dollar organizations knowing that the premise of tort reform is based upon lies and deceit, then introducing or voting for legislation that seriously hurts innocent citizens. Afterwards, these despicable politicians brag about their bills or their votes; they campaign on them, as if they actually accomplished something “good” for America. I can’t stand that they think it is “good” to beat up on the weak and powerless. I can’t stand to see seriously injured or disabled people left to fend for themselves because billion dollar corporations responsible for their injuries have bought off state or federal politicians. I can’t stand it because I know, first hand, that tort reform does nothing to curb “abuse” or “frivolity”; reform only restricts access and damages in serious cases with serious issues and serious injuries to real victims. I just can’t stand it!

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association as well as their ABA Advisory Committee, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

CCAC Rescue Team, Foster’s Home Raided by local North Carolina Authorities

I don’t see Pet-Abuse.Com being listed in the Michigan Federal Court Case as a defendant however there are references about this issue listed as a common allegation in the Lawsuit.

Now why is it this group picked these 5 Defendants out of all of the hundreds of people calling them out via FaceBook, TV News Station, Newspaper Articles and .com sites? For those of us following along this is starting to look like nothing more than a personal attack from these Plaintiffs versus any real facts for such a lawsuit.  ( click picture for a larger view) To read the entire listing on Pet-Abuse.Com see below:

http://www.pet-abuse.com/cases/18304/NC/US/

Also see previous post showing the connection between CCAC Rescue Team and Cathy Campbell. A Chip In for her legal fee’s are posted and screen shots of the Pookie Page that was created via FaceBook.

The Barclay Foundation needing help with Parvo puppies

The Barclay Foundation found themselves not only being lied to by Seven Star Sanctuary and Rescue employee’s about these non-existent health certificates, but now a huge Vet bill and to make it worse the CCAC Rescue Team took out their anger with TBF for publically telling the truth on the situation at hand and reported their Facebook posts and reported them to the State of Iowa Department of Agriculture in  which TBF License to operate was temporally suspended pending a full investigation.

We are starting to see a pattern emerge with this mean-spirited behavior from this same group women time and time again. If you don’t do as they tell you they go into attack mode and run a negative campaign on you in hopes to force you to shut up and not speak out on their reckless behavior.

So now this same group of 3 women have filed a Federal Lawsuit in Michigan on 3 North Carolina Residents, 1 in Pennsylvania and 1 in South Carolina. Another attempted attack to shut down anyone who speaks out about their bad behavior.  I do know that this case is being watched by many and let me warn everyone this is a case for trying to squash your Freedom of Speech.  How can any of us allow this type of behavior to take place in our court system? When you create issues such as what took place here, people are allowed to come out and voice their thoughts on the matter. It’s your right to have your views and to speak out when you see an injustice and not be in fear of being sued. I do find it odd of all the hundreds of screen shots that I am being sent, so far to date only 2 have been against that Defendants and I wont post them as they are not even relevant to this Columbus County Animal Shelter issue.  Please send any evidence on either side to alegalknot@gmail.com .

( click on picture for larger view)