Community activist group ACORN is suing the makers of a hidden-camera video that showed employees of its Baltimore office giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.
The liberal group contends that the audio portion of the video was obtained illegally because Maryland requires two-party consent to create sound recordings.
The two employees seen in the video were fired after it was posted online. The lawsuit says the employees, Tonja Thompson and Shera Williams, suffered "extreme emotional distress."
The multimillion-dollar lawsuit seeks damages from James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who played the pimp and prostitute in the videos, and from conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart, who posted the videos on his Web site.
There are so many things legally and tactically bogus about this that the only explanation I can imagine for ACORN going this route is sheer hubris.
Congress has already voted to defund them, the IRS, HUD and the census bureau have already cut ties with them and they're the subject of a treasury department investigation. And there are calls in Congress for further investigation of ACORN's practices and maybe even a special prosecutor.
So far, their patron Obama has managed to sit on the legislation and Bertha Wright, ACORN's CEO has been making the rounds saying that this is just a few rogue employees and she plans on doing some housecleaning and her own review.Instead of allowing the story to smother, ACORN is putting more gasoline on the fire.
Legally, this is a swamp for ACORN.For one thing, ACORN was the one who actually made the decision to fire the employees and inflict 'severe emotional distress' on them.There's no legal way that ACORN can be a co-plaintiff here in suing someone else for actions done by ACORN!
Breitbart's lawyers could actually countersue ACORN, claiming that any 'damages' the ACORN employees collect should in fact be paid by ACORN.
Another aspect of this has to do with ACORN as an employer. If they truly were rogue elements and departed from how they were trained, it's going to be very difficult for ACORN to maintain that they were unjustly fired and thus entitled to damages.
Finally, there's the whole basis of the suit itself, that the two ACORN underage prostitution abettors had their privacy rights violated.Except there's a whole carload of precedents showing that this right to privacy only applies when there is a reasonable expectation of privacy, which doesn't apply when dealing with the public because virtually all workplaces define themselves as places where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy.That's why your local market or bank can't be sued for videotaping its employees and why Eyewitness news types get away with those exposes of auto mechanics, fast food chains and the like.
In addition, ACORN might be targeted in a SLAPP suit. SLAPP stands for a strategic lawsuit against public participation an dhere's the statute directly out of the Maryland State Code:
§ 5-807. SLAPP suits. (a) "SLAPP suit" defined.- In this section, "SLAPP suit" means a strategic lawsuit against public participation. (b) Nature.- A lawsuit is a SLAPP suit if it is: (1) Brought in bad faith against a party who has communicated with a federal, State, or local government body or the public at large to report on, comment on, rule on, challenge, oppose, or in any other way exercise rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article 10, Article 13, or Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights regarding any matter within the authority of a government body; (2) Materially related to the defendant's communication; and (3) Intended to inhibit the exercise of rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article 10, Article 13, or Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. (c) Scope of immunity.- A defendant in a SLAPP suit is not civilly liable for communicating with a federal, State, or local government body or the public at large, if the defendant, without constitutional malice, reports on, comments on, rules on, challenges, opposes, or in any other way exercises rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or Article 10, Article 13, or Article 40 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights regarding any matter within the authority of a government body. (d) Remedies of defendant.- A defendant in an alleged SLAPP suit may move to: (1) Dismiss the alleged SLAPP suit, in which case the court shall hold a hearing on the motion to dismiss as soon as practicable; or (2) Stay all court proceedings until the matter about which the defendant communicated to the government body or the public at large is resolved. (e) Applicability.- This section: (1) Is applicable to SLAPP suits notwithstanding any other law or rule; and
(2) Does not diminish any equitable or legal right or remedy otherwise available to a defendant in a SLAPP suit.
(hat tip, Ace.)
Like I said, I think they're operating out of instinct or sheer hubris,unless they know something I don't know...like the location of a videotape of their own showing the judge they anticipate getting being intimate with a corpse or some livestock.