Conaway suit could "chill free speech in Baltimore," blogger says
Blogger Adam Meister has asked a judge to dismiss the $21 million law suit that Baltimore City Councilwoman Belinda Conaway brought against him after he reported she signed documents indicating she lived in Baltimore County.
The suit "if allowed to proceed, will chill free speech in Baltimore," an attorney for Meister wrote in a motion asking the judge to dismiss the suit. "By filing this suit, [Conaway] is attempting to silence Mr. Meister during the period of her re-election campaign."
In March, Meister,on his blog for Examiner.com, reported that Conaway had designated a home in Randallstown as her principal residence and linked to public real estate records to back his case.
"Belinda K. Conaway should immediately resign from Baltimore's City Council since she does not reside in Baltimore," Meister wrote.
Last month, Conaway filed suit against Meister demanding $21 million in damages and saying the blog post was libeous, defamatory and intentionally inflicted of emotional distress.
Conaway says in the suit that she was "having trouble sleeping," "short-tempered and ill" because of the blog post.
Meister's legal filings, prepared by two attorneys from the Venable firm on a pro bono basis, states that Conaway is a public figure and Meister was reporting on a matter of public concern-- indicating that his words do not pass the test to be considered libel.
Moreover, the filings state, Meister linked to documents Conaway herself had signed, attesting that her primary residence as in the county.
"If politicians can punish journalists by dragging them into litigation for reporting on the
politicians’ own statements, on matters of public concern, then the First Amendment is
endangered in Baltimore," Meister states in the suit.
An attorney for Conaway, Thomas J. Maronick Jr. said he had not yet had time to thoroughly studying Meister's filings, but said, "Obviously, at this point, we intend to vigorously argue against that motion."
"We don't believe our suit is frivolous," he said. "We filed it in good faith."