Yup — not just a particular government official, but Jefferson Parish itself is claiming that some anonymous commenters are spreading lies about the Parish (the Louisiana equivalent of a county) that damage the reputation of the Parish. It’s not clear to me from the story exactly what the comments about the co-plaintiff, Steve Theriot (Interim President of the Parish), said, and whether they would reasonably be understood as making false statements of fact or just expressing derogatory opinions. But the one thing that is clear, from the landmark New York Times Co. v. Sullivan decision, is that “prosecutions for libel on government” (which in context clearly refers to civil lawsuits for libel as well) have no “place in the American system of jurisprudence.”
Seems to me like an anti-SLAPP special motion to strike should easily prevail, at least against the Parish, and thus require the Parish to pay the defendants’ costs and attorney fees. Thanks to Charles Stiegler for the pointer.