Posted on March 27, 2020 by Cornell First Amendment Clinic
The First Amendment Clinic at Cornell Law School has stepped in to help a local citizen journalist fight a defamation lawsuit and proposed take-down order related to his watchdog coverage of local government.
Jim Meaney runs The Geneva Believer, a blog focused on the workings of his city government of Geneva, New York. He received a cease and desist letter in February accusing Mr. Meaney of defaming a construction company, Massa Construction, which had received millions of dollars of construction contracts from the City of Geneva.
The blog had raised several questions regarding these contracts, including whether there were conflicts of interest of City Council members, including one who is a Massa employee.
Upon receiving the cease and desist letter, Mr. Meaney reached out to the Cornell clinic for help. After reviewing the articles, the clinic concluded a suit violated New York’s anti-SLAPP statute. But before Cornell could respond, Massa filed a complaint for defamation in New York state court.
When the clinic, along with co-counsel Michael Grygiel of Greenberg Traurig, requested Massa withdraw the suit on the bases of defective pleading and New York’s anti-SLAPP protections, Massa doubled down and filed an amended complaint and a motion for a temporary restraining order ex parte, seeking a permanent take down of 10 articles.