* 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.