Attorney Robert Hanlon, representing McHenry County Blog and Cal Skinner, filed their reply to twice-failed Circuit Court Judge candidate Mary McClellan and her husband Ed Gil.
This Court when giving instructions on re-presentment of the motion was intended to alert the petitioner of the amount of the attorney fees due in this case, limited the response and reply to two simple issues the first was whether Attorney fees were applicable and the amount of attorney fees.
In this case, Petitioner failed to make any argument related to the amount of attorney fees.
Rather, the totality of the petitioner’s argument focuses upon the now dismissed petition as purportedly having merit, when this court already ruled that it was meritless by dismissing it under 2-615 with prejudice.
Petitioner is clearly in error and the authority relied upon by petitioner,
when read, demonstrates that positions advanced by Petitioner are not supported by the relevant authority.
Moreover, it is important to note that the petition for fees in this case is directed to Ed Gil as Petitioner, McClellan is in bankruptcy and the automatic stay applies to her and the respondents are not seeking monetary relief against McClellan.
After the summary of the case comes the argument:
It is important to note that the authority relied upon by Respondents establish that the first task a court has is to decide if the complaint states a cause of action.
Whether or not a complaint states a cause of action is a benchmark under the CPA.
Thus, a petition that fails under 2- 615 cannot be said to have any merit. Without merit, the action is a SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation}.
The law is then cited:
The court shall grant the motion and dismiss the judicial claim unless the
court finds that the responding party has produced clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the moving party are not immunized from, or are not in furtherance of acts immunized from, liability by this Act.
Sec. 25. Attorney’s fees and costs. The court shall award a moving party who prevails in a motion under this Act reasonable attorney’s fees and costs incurred in connection with the motion.
“In this case, Petitioner failed to provide any evidence of any kind, much less “clear and convincing evidence”, to support that the acts are not immunized,” Hanlon asserts.
“Petitioner’s contention is based on a claim that the underlying suit has merit and that petitioners claims do not relate to the right to petition and speak or associate or otherwise participate in government,” the brief continues.
“Petitioners contend that the June 19, 2020 court date was an’ ‘ex-parte’ order implying misconduct of either counsel or the court.
“In actuality, Petitioners had notice and an opportunity to appear but failed to appear.
“The court business does not automatically end if the Petitioner fails to appear when noticed.”
Hanlon then explains the purpose of McHenry County Blog:
Respondent, Cal Skinner Jr. and McHenry County Blog are as alleged, the publisher and a publication available on line known as the McHenry County Blog.
That blog covers matters of public concern in McHenry county.
The author, Cal Skinner Jr. publishes articles and offers a platform for related comments which he then publishes on McHenry County Blog.
The Blog is entirely devoted to speech and by its design is to facilitate participation in government by the electorate.
Because it is well known in McHenry County for following elections and matters of interest to the public, the McHenry County Blog and its comments are acting in furtherance of the right to speech and association or to otherwise participate in government.
This includes Cal Skinner Jr. as he is actively engaged in posting articles on the McHenry County Blog and serves to publish comments and controls comments on the blog.
Thus, all aspects of the CPA are applicable.
The motion points out that “McClellan is a public figure and was running for office of Judge at the time of the comments she and Ed Gil complained
The comments on the blog and the blog itself related to the exchange of ideas related to upcoming elections including the judicial race Ms. McClellan entered.
The act of publishing is in furtherance of the right to association and speech, thus covered under the act.
Even the Amended Complaint referenced statements made in this judicial proceeding as a basis to claim a remedy here.
This court found those statements were not actionable.
Emphasizing the relevance of the Citizens Participation Act, Hanlon points out
In fact, the Blog exists to exchange ideas concerning public figures and matters of interest to the public, the electorate.
Thus the Actions of the respondents was covered by the CPA The petitioners claims are solely based on, relate to the respondents actions of publishing the comments on the McHenry County Blog.
All of the statements complained of were opinion and protected speech…
Thus, all of the complained of statements were in furtherance of petitioning the electorate, the Government as defined in the CPA.
Nothing was alleged that gave merit to the claims of the 224 petition because this court dismissed the petition as failing to state a cause.
Importantly, Petitioners’ counsel and co-petitioner stated in open court that this case was about her election and that the case was about her needs in her election.
In essence, the appeals to the public are protected under the act as determined by the Wright court.
Thus, the contention that the comments were not related to speech or association or covered by the act is without merit, much the same as the petition itself.
Therefore, Respondents have established that the subject complaint meets the definition of a SLAPP and therefore, this Court should enforce the mandates of the CPA and dismiss this case with prejudice, and award Defendant her reasonable attorney fees in bringing this motion before this Court.
Hanlon points out McClellan “failed to contest the amount of attorney fees in the response” and concludes that must mean she thinks them reasonable.
And, having failed to prove that the suit was not a SLAPP suit, “The burden shifting provisions of the act occurred and the petitioner failed to provide any evidence that the claimed petition was genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action.”
The relief sought is requested from Judge Thomas Meyer.