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Glorioso v. Sun-Times Media Holdings

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  1. Libel and Privacy

Court: Illinois Supreme Court

Date Filed: April 4, 2024

Background: In 2021, Mauro Glorioso, a former executive of the Illinois Property Tax Appeal Board, filed a defamation lawsuit against the Chicago Sun-Times and investigative reporter Tim Novak over the newspaper’s coverage of Glorioso’s role in a $1 million property tax refund for former President Donald Trump.

The Sun-Times and Novak sought to dismiss the lawsuit under the Illinois Citizen Participation Act, which allows courts to quickly dismiss meritless lawsuits designed to chill speech, also known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs. However, a trial court denied their motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and an appeals court later affirmed the lower court’s decision, concluding that the underlying defamation suit is not a SLAPP because it was not “solely” a response to the newspaper’s exercise of its First Amendment rights.

The Sun-Times and Novak appealed the ruling to the Illinois Supreme Court. 

Our Position: The Illinois Supreme Court should reverse the appeals court’s decision and hold that the Sun Times’s lawsuit is a SLAPP that is contrary to public policy.

  • The Illinois Legislature enacted the CPA to protect and encourage the exercise of First Amendment rights. Without such statutory protections, SLAPPs are a commonly used weapon to deter and punish speech that plaintiffs disapprove of.
  • This court should interpret the CPA in accordance with the intent of the Illinois Legislature, which was to ensure that speakers, including the press, can exercise their political rights without the threat of expensive, protracted litigation.
  • Judicial decisions that have narrowed application of the CPA’s protections and placed too heavy a burden on the moving party are inconsistent with the language and intent of the law.
  • The trial court’s ruling below, if affirmed, would undermine the CPA’s effectiveness to the detriment of both the media and the public that relies on their reporting.

Attorneys from Dentons US LLP and Baron Harris Healey LLC represented the Reporters Committee and nine media organizations in this friend-of-the-court brief.

Quote: “Put simply, anti-SLAPP statutes do more than protect freedom of speech in theory. They do so in practice. Time and again, these laws have protected journalists and news organizations from lawsuits seeking to silence their reporting. Without the full protections of laws like the [CPA], journalists and news organizations may avoid important stories out of fear of being hit with a financially burdensome or even ruinous SLAPP.”

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