The Arizona Star reports that the Tucson Greyhound Park has dropped its defamation lawsuit against blogger Karyn Zoldan of the End Tucson Greyhound Racing website and blog. Both parties agreed to dismissal of the suit, but Zoldan did not pay anything in return for the settlement. She did, however, make some minor changes to statements on the website, which apparently satisfied John Munger, the lawyer who represented the track in the lawsuit.
The track filed the lawsuit in Arizona state court in January 2008. According to court documents, the dispute revolves around postings on Zoldan's site claiming that tens of thousands of dogs had died at the track during its sixty-year history, that one dog was "ruthlessly euthanized," and that the park had not been paying its taxes. The track also sued a number of other individuals and organizations, alleging that they were associated with Zoldan and the disputed content. In May, the track dismissed its claims against one of these defendants, the Greyhound Protection League, according to the Greyhound Network News.
The track asked the court for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction, but the court denied both requests this winter. More recently, the track offered to dismiss the case against Zoldan for $50,000 and later reduced its demand to $15,000. But Zoldan refused these offers, and eventually the track offered to drop the case without any transfer of money, according to the Greyhound Network News. Zoldan had already made some changes to her website on the advice of her attorney. You can get more details on the lawsuit and access some of the underlying court documents in our database entry, Tucson Greyhound Park v. Zoldan.
Zoldan got through this ordeal relatively unscathed, except for some potentially hefty attorneys' fees. That's a good result, but the track's tactics still managed to intimidate her and chill her speech and potentially that of others. Josh Brodesky of the Arizona Star writes:
The agreement to dismiss has brought relief to Zoldan, 60, although the suit has also made her think twice about speaking out against the track and the sport.
"I am relieved. I am cautious, but I am relieved," she said. "I just feel like I am afraid to speak. I am afraid to say anything. I have been very vocally opposed to greyhound racing, in general, and in Tucson, in particular. I just feel I was a target, and if they made an example of me, no one else will speak out."
It's a poignant reminder that even an unsuccessful lawsuit can chill speech and an impetus for increased efforts to put together a network of experienced media lawyers who are willing to defend online speech pro bono or for reduced fees. If you're a lawyer who wants to help out, please contact the CMLP.