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Sunday, June 23, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Suit Over Drawing in Court Papers Can Proceed

(CN) - A Louisiana man whose divorce papers contained his son's pornographic drawing can sue the website that published it, a state appeals court ruled.

Chris Yount is a paralegal and process server. During the course of his job, he has served process in defamation lawsuits to Douglas Handshoe and his slabbed.org website.

Yount was going through a divorce in 2013 when his son's drawing, which was part of the divorce proceeding, appeared on the Slabbed website.

Handshoe and Jack "Bobby" Truitt commented on the article, identifying the artist as a child and noting that the drawing was attached to a divorce case.

The judge sealed part of the divorce case record and ordered that the drawing be removed from the Internet.

The blog post came down after the Slabbed site also received a notice of copyright infringement. However, Handshoe found a new webhost and republished the site, including the drawing.

Handshoe posted on two other occasions after the case was sealed, identifying Yount and his son.

Yount sued Handshoe, Truitt, Slabbed.org and Slabbed New Media LLC for invasion of privacy, defamation, cyberstalking and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

Handshoe and Truitt tried to block the lawsuit with anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motions. Handshoe stated that his blog posts were substantially true or consisted of reasonable opinion.

The trial court granted Handshoe and Truitt's motions, ruling that the blog posts were protected speech under the First Amendment in connection with a public issue.

However, the Gretna-based Fifth Circuit Louisiana Court of Appeals reversed the decision in Handshoe's case in May, allowing Yount to proceed with his lawsuit.

Presently, the appeals court made a similar ruling in regard to Truitt.

Judge Hans Liljeberg wrote that in the Handshoe ruling, the appeals court "found that Mr. Yount's divorce proceeding is 'a private domestic matter, not a matter of public significance for purposes of applying the Louisiana anti-SLAPP protections.

"Just like Mr. Handshoe, Mr. Truitt has not met his burden of proving that his actions were in furtherance of his right of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue, and (the law) does not protect him from the claims made against him by Mr. Yount," he added.

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