Florida Phoenix by Lucy Morgan
April 14, 2020
A unanimous Florida Supreme Court has refused to review a $4.4-million verdict against environmentalist Maggy Hurchalla for urging the Martin County Commission to back out of a deal with Lake Point Restoration, a rock mining company.
Hurchalla, the feisty sister of former U.S. Attorney Janet Reno, has waged a lengthy legal battle, lost some of her possessions and made the case a celebrated cause for environmental activists who contend the decision against her will have a long term impact on the ability of Floridians to oppose actions taken by governmental agencies.
“I’m okay, the First Amendment is not,’’ Hurchalla said Tuesday after hearing of the court decision.
She has vowed to take the fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary and recently created www.SLAPPMaggy.com, a web site devoted to the details of the case which originated in Martin County and was upheld by the Fourth District Court of Appeal in West Palm Beach last year.
Initially the developer sued Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District but both settled out of court, leaving Hurchalla to battle it out alone. (SLAPP is an acronym for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.)
It was the last case argued by famed First Amendment lawyer Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte before he died in May 2019. He argued that the multi-million- dollar verdict was an extreme penalty against free speech and the right to petition government.
Hurchalla, a 79-year-old retiree, was at home fighting a fever Tuesday, but said she is not giving up.
“I’m the last one standing,’’ Hurchalla wrote recently in an online treatise that outlined the five-year legal fight.