The local chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union told a D.C. Superior Court judge last night that Dan Snyder‘s lawsuit against Washington City Paper and staff writer Dave McKenna is a nuisance that must be thrown out because it violates a new law that keeps powerful public figures from harassing people—or newspapers—that write about them.

“The facts on the public record suggest that [Snyder] is as likely to prevail on the merits here as Voldemort is to prevail over Harry Potter in their final battle,” says an amicus brief filed by the ACLU, D.C. Councilmember Mary Cheh (who sponsored the District’s law against what are known as “strategic lawsuits against public participation”), and 14 media and public interest organizations. “For what it will cost him to pursue this lawsuit, plaintiff probably could have purchased full-page advertisements telling his side of the story in every issue of the City Paper for a year, if not a decade. His decision to pursue litigation rather than ‘more speech,’ and his not-even-thinly-veiled threat to make the defense of this lawsuit financially untenable for City Paper’s owners, make clear that this case fits the mold of SLAPP suits as articulated by the Council.”

Snyder sued City Paper and McKenna in D.C. Superior Court in April, after dropping an earlier complaint filed in New York courts against the investment company that owns Creative Loafing Inc., our parent company, and against Creative Loafing. (Creative Loafing was also dropped from the D.C. complaint this spring.) He claims a cover story about him that ran last November, “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” defamed him. City Paper and McKenna responded last month, asking the court to throw out Snyder’s lawsuit under D.C.’s anti-SLAPP law, which requires the case to be dismissed unless Snyder can persuade a judge that he is likely to succeed on the merits of his claims.

The amicus brief supports the argument City Paper and McKenna made last month. Besides the ACLU and Cheh, the other parties who joined the brief are: the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, the Maryland-District of Columbia-Delaware Broadcasters Association, the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, National Public Radio, Allbritton Communications (publisher of TBD and Politico), Atlantic Media Inc. (publisher of National Journal and The Atlantic), WUSA-TV (Channel 9), the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia, Politico, the Public Participation Project, the Environmental Working Group, and Public Citizen.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery