Eminent Domain Abuse SLAPP in Tennessee

In Tennessee, the Clarksville Property Rights Coalition (CPRC), a grassroots group formed to fight the eminent domain abuse, ran an ad in the local newspaper criticizing elected officials and developers for backing a redevelopment plan including eminent domain. The ad said, in part, “This Redevelopment Plan is of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers.”

In March of 2009, the circuit court vindicated the right to protest government abuse by dismissing the libel and invasion of privacy claims against CPRC, holding, “Debate on public issues shall be uninhibited [and] wide open. . . .  Accusing a public official or public figure of using their political influence to obtain a benefit for others or themselves or favoring their supporters is not defamation.” And, as the speech at issue involved “public debate, public issues and public persons,” the plaintiff’s allegations were insufficient to support a claim of invasion of privacy as a matter of law.

Although Tennessee has an anti-SLAPP statute, it only protects statements made to a government body. But under the proposed federal legislation, the CPRC would also have been able to recover attorney’s fees and damages incurred in defending against the SLAPP.

See Swift v. Clarksville Property Rights Coalition, No. MC CC CV OD- 08529 (2009).

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