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*** UPDATED x1 - Proft responds *** Drury loses another round against Proft

Wednesday, Sep 13, 2017

* Cook County Record

An Illinois state representative and Democratic candidate for governor has failed in another attempt to sue an Illinois conservative radio talk show host and political activist and his political organization for statements made in 2014 political advertisements, as a Cook County judge has again tossed the defamation lawsuit brought by State Rep. Scott Drury against Dan Proft and Liberty Principles PAC.

On Sept. 12, Cook County Circuit Judge Franklin Valderrama dismissed without prejudice Drury’s first amended complaint, leaving it to Drury to decide whether to continue to pursue the litigation he has chased in court for nearly three years.

Drury, of Highwood, first filed suit in 2014, as he neared the end of his campaign to win another term in office from the state’s 58th Legislative District, which includes a large swath of shoreline in southeastern Lake County, including the suburbs of Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Bannockburn and Highland Park.

In that lawsuit, Drury accused Proft and Liberty Principles PAC, as well as his Republican opponent, Dr. Mark Neerhof, of Lake Forest, and Neerhof’s campaign organization of lying about Drury’s positions on an education funding bill then pending in the Illinois General Assembly.

That legislation, known as Senate Bill 16, would have reformed Illinois education funding, potentially cutting state funding to education in more affluent districts to redirect it to other, poorer communities – a move opponents said would unfairly benefit the city of Chicago. […]

In the 2014 campaign, however, Proft and Liberty Principles funded ads on cable television and in direct mail pieces telling voters that Drury supported cutting funding for local schools in the district “by as much as 70 percent;” was in favor of sending the district’s “tax dollars to Chicago schools;” and “has put his Chicago Democrat Party bosses ahead of our schools.”

Upon publication of the mailer, Drury filed suit, alleging Proft and Liberty Principles had coordinated with Neerhof’s campaign to unfairly smear him, and asking the court to order them to pay for publishing false statements about him and his political positions.

Most of the lawsuit, however, was dismissed, as the judge said Drury, as a public figure and politician, needed to do more than demonstrate the statements were false. Rather, the judge said, Drury needed to show the defendants made the statements, knowing they were false and had still published them with “actual malice.”

*** UPDATE ***  From Dan Proft…

In 2014, in the course of the Illinois District 58 House race, Democrat State Rep. Scott Drury filed a baseless defamation complaint against me and Liberty Principles PAC and his Republican opponent Mark Neerhof and Neerhoff’s campaign committee. Drury claimed that statements made regarding his support the Democrat school funding bill which were false and defamatory. In fact, they turned out to be both accurate and prescient. Remarkably, this year, Drury came out in support of an identical school funding bill.

We successfully moved to dismiss Drury’s first complaint in 2014. The Court found that Drury failed to plead “actual malice”. As an attorney, Drury is well aware of the legal standard in such cases. His litigatiousness was completely political in nature. His frivolous lawsuit was designed to chill free speech in the political arena by eliminating dissent. Unfortunately for him, he ran into defendants who will not be intimidated.

In the initial dismissal order, the court permitted Drury to file an amended complaint, as to certain of his allegations, giving him yet another chance to try assert a viable claim. We moved to dismiss again.

On Tuesday, the Court again ruled against Drury, dismissing his amended complaint. In a meticulous, 16-page opinion, the Court found, again, that Drury failed to meet the exacting standard required to salvage his baseless complaint.

The Court concluded that, “Drury has failed to allege that Defendants acted with actual malice.” The Court permitted Drury to file a second amended complaint, which is due in 35 days.

Nonetheless, the Court suggested that Drury is going to have a difficult time alleging facts sufficient to satisfy the actual malice standard.

In fact, he cannot truthfully make a defamation claim. This may not stop him for attempting yet again. But we will not be harrassed out of our First Amendment rights by a thin-skinned political hack like Drury who seeks to use the state to silence political opponents because he is unable to defend his record during the time in which he was supposed to be a servant of the state and her families.

The opinion is here.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

24 Comments
  1. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Proft finally found an arena and an opponent where he can win.


  2. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:08 am:

    Drury needs a hug.


  3. - LakeEffect - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:11 am:

    I’m not sure if having the ad pulled off the air by Comcast the day after the 2014 lawsuit was filed and spending tens of thousands of dollars in litigation fees is a “win” for Proft.


  4. - Oswego Willy - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:12 am:

    It probably got more discussion after it wasn’t running then when it was running.

    “Opportunity Costs”


  5. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:17 am:

    “But your honor, there was no malice directed at the representative, we published those statements strictly for a political advantage.”/s


  6. - Periwinkle - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:18 am:

    I thought Drury was a federal prosecutor? How can he not know the basic standard for defamation of a public figure?


  7. - Quizzical - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:19 am:

    As he’s a former federal prosecutor, i thought Drury would be more successful in court.


  8. - Ghost - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    most of the world thinks we are nuts for letting stiff like this go. (yes i am empowered to speak for the world dont question my hyperbole) In australia and england this would actualy be criminal conduct as well.


  9. - Downers Grove Guy - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:20 am:

    It’s not about actually winning the case, it’s about costing Proft resources (legal fees). In any case, it’s really tough to get the courts to go along with an accusation of a political lie.


  10. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:36 am:

    Did Drury claim to have been put in a “false light?”


  11. - Robert the Bruce - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 10:41 am:

    ==Drury needed to show the defendants made the statements, knowing they were false and had still published them with “actual malice”==
    This seems like a pretty low bar, actually.

    Has there ever been a campaign for governor, for example, in which neither campaign knowingly made malicious false statements in their negative ads?


  12. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 11:05 am:

    Amazing. Only Scott Drury could turn Dan Proft into a sympathetic figure. Reading this and his response, I found myself agreeing with Dan. Good Lord.


  13. - Trapped in the 'burbs - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 11:14 am:

    Scott, just go away. You continue to embarrass yourself.


  14. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 11:28 am:

    I’m torn here. How come both sides can’t lose? Seriously, Proft is right on the law, though that doesn’t mean he wasn’t following LBJ’s 11th commandment (make’m deny it). And tho his description of drury is apt, I just can’t bring myself to enjoy it because of the source. Think I’ll lay down until my head stops hurting trying to reconcile this moral delima.


  15. - Annonin' - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 11:45 am:

    Clearly the court is confirmin’ that Proft is such a magoo that he cannot be the victim of malice. Thanks for confirmin’


  16. - Jibba - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 11:47 am:

    I would be embarrassed that my defense is that I knowingly lied but did not have actual malice. Glad I am not a politician or PAC spokesman.


  17. - anon2 - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 12:17 pm:

    === That seems like a pretty low bar (to establish malice) ===

    How would one prove the motives of the defendants? Assuming they won’t admit that they knew the accusations were false and did it anyway because they hated the target.


  18. - JoanP - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 12:24 pm:

    @Jibba -

    You misunderstand the status of the case. At this point, Proft et al. are not asserting a defense. They are arguing that the plaintiff’s complaint is legally insufficient in that it does not allege a necessary element of defamation.


  19. - G'Kar - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 12:29 pm:

    So, will Proft’s dark money still support that “thin-skinned political hack” as a stalking horse in the primary?


  20. - DuPage Bard - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 1:26 pm:

    With this judgement you can pretty much say anything at this point, with no fear at all of defamation, according to the courts?
    This is why we don’t have nice things.
    Most expensive and now largest lie filled campaign in history.


  21. - Jibba - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 1:37 pm:

    Hey Joan, I guess I’m glad I’m not a lawyer, either. Perhaps it is a little premature to call it a defense, and while it may be a legal winner, it would be a PR loser to say you are not guilty only because you did not act with actual malice. At least in the real world.


  22. - NorthsideNoMore - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    name on ballot = get thicker skin


  23. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 3:26 pm:

    In other news, Proft joins forces with Jon Zahm.


  24. - anon2 - Wednesday, Sep 13, 17 @ 4:35 pm:

    In England and Australia, truth has a higher priority than freedom to lie. Americans say they hate mudslinging. Imagine how much different campaigns would be if those putting out lies could be held liable.


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