MIAMI, FL – November 5, 2019 – Attorney Frank A. Shepherd, shareholder in GrayRobinson’s Miami office, was mentioned in the Law360 article, "Anti-SLAPP Advocates Positive Despite Nixed Appeal In Fla." The article outlines how First Amendment rights advocates were enthusiastic about a decision from Florida's Fourth District on a state statute that's designed to prevent lawsuits aimed at hindering the exercise of free-speech rights, even though the court rejected an appeal that relied on that law.
The issue originated from a case in which former West Palm Beach city commissioner Sharon "Shannon" Materio sued a marketing firm, its principal and an electioneering group for publishing a mailer that suggested she received improper property tax breaks and a federally funded grant intended for low income residents, according to the appellate opinion. Materio contends the mailer, sent to voters before the 2018 City Commission election, defamed her.
Shepherd, who is representing Americans for Prosperity, the Public Participation Project and First Amendment Foundation as amicus curiae supporting the defendants, said that while the Fourth District panel found that case law prevented it from hearing the defendants' appeal, the court's certification of a conflict with the state's Second District and other elements of its decision provide opportunities to strengthen the law's protections. "These individuals and groups are the most vulnerable to lawsuits intended to chill or silence them. The jurisdictional issue is easily remediable," Shepherd says.
Shepherd also points to support for the defendants – Cornerstone Solutions Florida LLC, its principal Pradeep "Rick" Asnani and WPB Residents for Integrity in Government Inc. – in a concurring opinion by District Judge Robert M. Gross. The judge said that Materio's lawsuit qualifies as the kind of meritless bullying action known as a "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation" that the anti-SLAPP law is meant to cover and also found that the statute covers political mailers, like the one at hand.
Read the full article here.