When two young women saw a lady in a white Mercedes telling a street vendor she was going to call the police if he continued to sell in Orange County park, the young women filmed the interaction and published the video on social media. To Lissette Martinez Gutierrez and Carolina Vega, they were seeing yet another instance of person of color being harassed for everyday activity, whether it is barbecquing, sitting in a Starbucks, swimming in a pool, or renting an AirBNB. So they posted the video on Facebook with the caption: “This xenophobic lady kept harassing the elotero for selling at the park.”
For this, the two young women were hit with a lawsuit alleging that they defamed the woman in the Mercedes and seeking one million dollars in damages.
My office represented the two women. We filed an anti-SLAPP motion—a motion that asks the court to dismiss a lawsuit that is brought to retaliate against people who are expressing their First Amendment rights. We argued that the women were expressing their free speech rights on an issue of public interest and were well within their rights to say what they said.
Today the court dismissed the lawsuit and ordered that the plaintiff pay the young women’s attorney’s fees. Read the order here.
If you find yourself sued for exercising your free speech rights, contact my office.