After keeping us in suspense for quite a while, the Texas Court of Appeals came through and in an opinion filed July 25, 2011, held in the case of Carla T. Main et al. v. Royall, Tex. Ct.App., 5th Dist., No. 05-09-01503-CV, that the trial court erred when it refused to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Carla Main and her publisher. Main’s book, “Bulldozed” was about eminent domain, with particular focus on a redevelopment case in Freeport, Texas. H. Walker Royall, the redeveloper, was the plaintiff in the defamation suit. He complained that the book defamed him. The Texas Court of Appeals disagreed, and ordered the case remanded and dismissed. You can read the opinion here It quotes the assertedly defamatory passages and explains that they are nothing of the sort.
Though the court disposed of the matter on the basis of the law of defamation, rather than the First Amendment, the result is the same. The Main decision is another blow for the integrity of the First Amendment which, if nothing else, protects citizens’ right to speak out critically on the way the government goes about its business, particularly when its conduct is abusive.
Also see our recent post about another First Amendment victory (that one in St. Louis) where a federal Court of Appeals invalidated a city ordinance used to forbid a citizen to put up a sign protesting abuses of eminent domain. Go to www.gideonstrumpet.info/?p=1514 of July 13, 2011.