A few weeks ago, I blogged about a lawsuit in which Texas developer H. Walker Royall is suing legal journalist Carla Main for alleged defamation. Royall had previously acquired property through the use of eminent domain by the city of Freeport, Texas, so that he could in turn use it to build a luxury marina. Main wrote a compelling book about the case, and now Royall is suing her for defamation because she described his role in the case in an unflattering light. Even more absurdly, Royall is also suing University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein for writing a favorable blurb for the book.
In this recent op ed coauthored with her publisher, Roger Kimball, Main gives her view of the case and the threat it poses to property rights and freedom of speech.
It is highly unlikely that Royall will actually win this case. However, such lawsuits can still serve to stifle criticism of questionable takings by imposing steep litigation costs on critics. Main and Epstein are fortunate to have free representation from the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public interest law firm that has litigated numerous property rights cases, including Kelo v. City of New London. Most other eminent domain critics and threatened property owners are not so fortunate.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH: Richard Epstein and I have worked together on various eminent domain issues, though not on this case. I also have done a variety of eminent domain-related pro bono work for the Institute for Justice, which is representing Epstein and Main.
UPDATE: I accidentally got Royall's first name wrong in the first version of this post. The mistake has now been corrected.
Related Posts (on one page):
- Prof. Richard Epstein Dismissed from Book-Blurb Libel Case, on Jurisdictional Grounds:
- Journalist Carla Main Responds to Developer Who is Suing Her Claiming that She Defamed Him in Book Chronicling His Effort to Acquire Property Through Eminent Domain:
- Texas Developer Who Used Eminent Domain to Acquire Property for Himself Sues Journalist Carla Main and lawprof Richard Epstein for Libel: