Appeals court allows briefs in Hurchalla case

Politico Florida Pro by Bruce Ritchie

September 10, 2018

TALLAHASSEE — A state court is allowing news industry groups, environmentalists and others to file briefs in support of Martin County environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla in her appeal of a developer’s $4.4 million verdict against her.

Lake Point LLC and developer George Lindemann Jr. filed suit against Hurchalla in 2013, alleging that her influence caused Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District to wrongly breach water storage contracts with Lake Point.

A jury last February ordered Hurchalla to pay $4.4 million, a decision that she has appealed.

Hurchalla says Lindemann’s lawsuit was a Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or “SLAPP,” suit aimed at silencing her. Sixteen groups and individuals, including the First Amendment Foundation, the Florida Press Association and the Florida Society of News Editors, sought to file briefs in support.

The 4th District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach in July denied requests by environmentalist Nathaniel P. Reed of Hobe Sound, who died in July, and Guardians of Martin County, to file amicus briefs in the case, citing arguments from the developer.

Lake Point LLC had argued in a court filing that Hurchalla’s appeal is “hardly about one’s general right to petition the government. … Rather, it concerns the calculated use of known lies to harm a business.”

But the appeals court on Sept. 7 approved without explanation the requests of Reed and others to file briefs. The other groups include the Florida Wildlife Federation, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Florida and the Brechner Center for Freedom of Information at the University of Florida.

[View Online]

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