What's At Stake In Galloway v. A.B.
Anti-Slapp Motion heads To Court Today
This morning in BC Supreme Court, counsel for A.B. began making their arguments to have the defamation case against her thrown out under B.C.’s new “anti-SLAPP” legislation. As promised I’ve written a number of guides and summaries to get you up to speed on the case to date so you can easily follow along.
This includes the following clickable links:
I will update the timeline with more resources shortly. But before you jump in I’d like to explain what is at stake with this motion to dismiss Galloway v. A.B..
What You Need To Know
SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” which is a lawsuit filed to specifically silence somebody on a matter of public interest. In simplest terms A.B. is hoping to have Galloway v. A.B. dismissed before trial on the grounds that 1) the case has no merit, and 2) its purpose is to silence her as a sexual assault survivor and artist. A.B. also argues that allowing the case to proceed to trial will silence sexual assault survivors in general by creating a “libel chill.”
On the contrary Steven Galloway argues that the allegations are false, A.B. is not a survivor of sexual assault but a liar who destroyed his life as he knew it by maliciously calling him one of the worst things someone can be called: a rapist. Galloway argues that what is in the public good is truth and justice for anyone who has been falsely accused of a horrendous crime.
The two competing positions are stated clearly in A.B.’s anti-SLAPP application and Galloway’s response to it. Presented respectively as follows:
“Allowing these proceedings to continue will create a libel chill around the confidential disclosure and reporting of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The Plaintiff's claim unduly limits the Applicant's expressions on a matter of public interest and limits her from publicly participating in the #MeToo dialogue.”
“It is frightening to think of a society where there is license to spread reputation- destroying accusations with – should these motions succeed – impunity, and without compensation or name-clearing for the victim whose life has been devastated. The unacceptability of that scenario is why we have defamation laws.”
Even Cases Of Merit
What is essential to understand is that A.B. is arguing that even cases of merit must be dismissed. This is to say that the court will first decide whether Galloway’s case is frivolous or to the contrary that there are “reasonable grounds to believe there is no valid defence.” This means that if the courts determine that Galloway’s case has substantial merit, then A.B. is asking that the court then dismiss the case against her on the grounds that the harm to Galloway’s life is less important than her right to express herself.
To interpret the PPPA law in such a manner would in essence mean that allegations of rape and sexual assault (whether they have merit or not) would become legally protected speech.
Again let me present the respective arguments from both sides.
“The Plaintiff is attempting to silence not only the Applicant, but also the twenty other defendants named in the Action. This Action is not about reputation management; it is about creating a "libel chill" around the confidential disclosure, reporting and discussion of sexual assault and sexual harassment.”
“A trial is required to settle the truth once and for all, to clear Steven Galloway’s name, to repair a savaged reputation, and to obtain compensation and injunctive relief for the defamations, many of which remain on the internet to this day.”
False Allegations As Protected Speech
What’s important to remember is that this SLAPP hearing is not about determining whether or not a rape occurred; it’s about testing the merits of the case to determine if someone who feels as though they have been falsely accused should even have a right to a trial in order to seek vindication.
A.B. argues that her right to free expression outweighs Galloway’s right to clear his name. As stated in her application to dismiss:
“Unlike the Applicant's (A.B.s) constitutionally protected right to free speech, the Plaintiff (Galloway) has no such constitutionally protected right to vindication of his reputation.”
Part of her argument against Galloways’ right to clear his name is that her expressions for which she is being sued (calling Galloway a rapist) are “high quality speech.” It’s important to note that while she claimed the defence of “truth” in her response to the civil filing, she is not bringing it as a defence in the SLAPP motion. A.B.’s position is then that Steven Galloway does not deserve a trial and the issue of truth should not even be weighed before throwing his case out.
Should this motion succeed after it is determined that Galloway’s case has merit, then the “high quality speech” that will then be legally protected under B.C.’s anti-SLAPP legislation will include this tweet by the defendant Wendel Schwab:
“In my opinion, Steven Galloway sexually assaults women ... in my opinion, Steven Galloway is what I would consider human garbage.”
This case isn’t just about Steven Galloway. This case is about truth and our ability to fight for it.
I encourage you to follow along and thank you for spreading the word.