In the interest of keeping the community we serve informed, we write today to let you know that East Lansing Info’s First Amendment attorney Brian Wassom of Warner Norcross + Judd has advised us that Scott Chappelle has decided to seek an appeal in the lawsuit he brought against ELi.
Ingham County Judge Joyce Draganchuk ruled against Chappelle on October 27, summarily dismissing Chappelle’s claims that ELi defamed him. But Chappelle is exercising his right to appeal – prolonging the matter – so we’ll continue to have Wassom defend us.
Wassom is also, at our request, asking the judge to order Chappelle to pay our legal expenses in a motion “for award of sanctions for the filing of a frivolous civil action.”
In his request to have Chappelle be held responsible for bringing a baseless case that was summarily dismissed, Wassom has told the court, “Chappelle made crystal-clear that his various tort claims did not rest on any good-faith interpretation of defamation law or the First Amendment. Instead, they were merely his vehicle for vindicating his perception of events and punishing ELi for reporting uncomfortable facts. Neither his written motion papers nor his oral arguments at the motion hearing made any effort to pinpoint any objectively false statements of fact that could have even arguably supported a defamation claim.”
Back in July, Wassom spoke with the two of us on the ELi East Lansing Insider podcast to talk about how the fact that Michigan lacks “anti-SLAPP” legislation puts organizations like ours at serious risk for suits like this one. As the Reporters Committee on the Freedom of the Press (RCFP) explains, in states with this kind of legislation, “news organizations and individual journalists can use anti-SLAPP statutes to protect themselves from the financial threat of a groundless defamation case brought by a subject of an enterprise or investigative story.”
While this lawsuit has been frustrating and stressful, we have not allowed it to intimidate us as we do our work for you. ELi is a mission-driven nonprofit organization that is specifically here to be your advocate in the pursuit of factual news. We believe in your right to know what is going on in and around East Lansing, and we are here to act as watchdogs and supporters of transparency.
As Wassom says in his request for sanctions, in our reporting on Chappelle’s criminal indictment as with the rest of our work, “ELi was performing the cherished and constitutionally protected function of gathering news on matters of common concern and reporting it to the public – a vital component of a free civil society.”
If you believe in what we are doing for this community, now is a great time to step up and help us with a tax-deductible monthly commitment on your credit card or a lump-sum contribution. A wonderfully generous ELi donor just put another $4,000 matching-fund commitment into our tanker truck of matching funds through a donation of stock, extending our ability to match YOUR gifts!
That means we can DOUBLE any gift you give, and if you make a MONTHLY commitment, we can match that at the ANNUAL rate.
A commitment of $10/month brings us $120 commitment from you plus a $120 match – getting us $240 closer to our goal.
A one-time gift of $250 today gets matched and brings us $500 closer to our goal!
To celebrate this fresh match infusion, we’re running a Weekend Warrior mini-campaign this weekend!
Last weekend, ELi raised $3,500 for our 2022 Sustainability Campaign. Can you help us make it happen again this weekend?
Please consider making a donation to our Weekend Warrior Bucket today, with a one-time donation or a monthly commitment. Your bucket contribution will get matched by those tanker truck funds to help super-charge ELi’s water tower for 2022.
Find all the ways you can give by clicking here. All donations made between now and Sunday at midnight will count towards our weekend mini-goal.
And thank you for your wonderful support, financial and moral! It keeps us going.