Lawsuit Slappy

Every morning, an article in your daily newspaper should get under your skin, make you angry. And I'm not talking about a crime story, where all the lazy comfortable schmucks in this town sit around talking about what a shame, say, the killing of a restaurateur by a robber in front of his customers. No, horrific as that is, it's too easy. I'm talking about a story that gets you where you live. America. A story that assaults the ideals on which this country was founded -- and feels like a slap, or SLAPP, to your face.

There was such a story this morning (and it happened to have been written by someone who lives where I live) in the Sun-Sentinel. The developer of the high-rise tower next to the historic Stranahan House is suing opponents of its construction, including one activist personally. Related Group is suing in part because the opponents said the Related Group is trying to "destroy" the Stranahan House and called the developers "greedy."

What an outrage. Calling a developer greedy. Almost as bad as trying to stop a 42-story building from ruining downtown.

I wasn't really against building the thing before, but now I'd like to see the Related Group run right out of town. For once I agree with attorney Bill Scherer, who represents the Stranahan House and called the legal action a classic SLAPP suit -- Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.

"I think it makes their black hat blacker," he told the newsaper. "Bigger and blacker."

That's a damn fine quote, Bill. Related Group's attorney, Don Hall, on the other hand, should get ready for some serious ridicule and Related Group founder Jorge M. Perez might as well be resigned to fight hard for every single brick he ever wants to lay in Broward County, because he's now officially become Public Enemy No. 1.

But hey, everything is fair in love, war, and South Florida development right? Shouldn't the greedy Related Group be able to utilize everything in the arsenal -- whether it has any merit or not -- to destroy the Stranahan House?

Sure, but it must suffer the public lacklash for trying to crush free speech and, perhaps even more egregious, for suing activist Scott Strawbridge personally. Here's what Brittany Wallman wrote:

Strawbridge, who led a political action committee against the condo, said he is "sad" to be sued.

"The thought that they want to hold me personally responsible is, uh," he stopped and sighed. "I have to think of the right word to describe it. It's unbelievable."

I concur -- and, for some strange reason, emphathize heavily with you, Scott. The great majority of the people are behind you. Hang tough.

After the jump: Fred Grimm On JAABlog, Dale Ross, and the Wheel

Miami Herald columnist Fred Grimm today gives us an excellent history on the undermining of the Broward County judiciary under the rule of Chief Judge Dale Ross.

He also touches on the Wheel and how a bunch of good reporters have uncovered cronyism in the doling out of criminal defense work for the indigent to defense attorneys. Grimm, whose best work brims with the kind of angry -- and righteous, damn righteous -- indignation that only the finest muckrakers in the business are possessed with, concludes: "Dale Ross is media-proof. The bubba-in-chief is forever."

We'll see.

Reporter's Resource: Y'all might have seen this already, but if you're writing about something that goes across country or the world, this website ( can calculate mileage for distances. Click here for the actual page. And don't say the Pulp never tried to help you.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman