Defending Our Rights Under the Texas Anti-SLAPP Statute
Landry's, Inc v Animal Legal Defense fund, et al.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund was sued by Laundry’s after making public comments that discussed the Aquarium’s mistreatment of four captive white tigers and asserted that such treatment violated the Endangered Species Act.
August 18, 2022
In 2017, the Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a motion asking a Texas judge to dismiss a lawsuit claiming we and others defamed the owner of the Downtown Houston Aquarium merely based on our public comments and statutorily required notice of intent to sue letter that discussed the Aquarium’s mistreatment of four captive white tigers and asserted that such treatment violated the Endangered Species Act.
The lawsuit claimed we defamed Landry’s and the Houston Downtown Aquarium by publicly commenting on their long-controversial mistreatment of four white tigers, Nero, Marina, Coral and Reef — who’ve never had adequate access to sunlight, fresh air, or natural surfaces, and had been housed indoors at the Downtown Aquarium and restaurant for 12 years.
The motion was filed under the Texas Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute. This law allows judges to dismiss meritless lawsuits filed against those who speak out about a “matter of public concern.”
The Texas trial court granted our motion and the lawsuit was dismissed in February 2017. The judge also awarded over $170,000 in attorneys’ fees and $450,000 in sanctions against Landry’s in order to discourage the filing of future SLAPP suits designed to suppress free speech.
That decision was affirmed by the Texas Court of Appeals in October 2018, which also suggested the amount of sanctions awarded to the Animal Legal Defense Fund should be slightly reduced.
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