On June 19, 2012 attorneys working under the direction of Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) extracted from Cook County Judge Randye Kogan a decision granting their VP Melvin Terrell and the university immunity from defamation claims using the Illinois Citizen Participation Act (CPA). The act was meant to protect citizens from being sued by powerful interests for speaking out in public forums. This ruling stands the CPA on its head granting immunity to a powerful interest in attacks on a citizen in response to her voicing an opinion on an issue of public concern.
Our ability as citizens to influence governmental decisions has been revoked. Instead, immunity has been granted to government officials to indiscriminately exercise their authority to crush any citizens who dare to oppose them.
Capeheart was attempting to influence the university’s decision to arrest peaceful protesters when she was viciously slandered by VP Terrell. The CPA was not intended to protect such abuses, it was intended to protect citizens such as Capeheart, not to punish, nor to bankrupt them as NEIU is intending. The ruling in Capeheart’s case prevents judicial redress for any slander by a government official against a citizen because of the extreme threat of liability for the government’s legal tab.
This decision will negatively impact upon attempts to secure national legislation commonly called anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation). It may also be affect citizens of states which currently have anti-SLAPP legislation in place. Support the spirit and intent of anti-Slapp laws by signing the letter to Illinois legislators demanding that they stop this perversion of the law.