Free Speech on the Docket

Murray, et al. v. Ciocia, et al. (amicus)

Status:
Closed
Case Dates:
Thursday, 16 July, 2015 - Monday, 5 October, 2015
Facts:

Robert Murray, CEO of one of the largest independent coal-mining corporations in the country, Murray Energy (“MEC”), has filed numerous SLAPPs (or strategic lawsuits against public participation) against individuals critical of him and his corporation.  The ACLU of Ohio has already been involved in one SLAPP filed by Mr. Murray – when we successfully defended a Huffington Post contributing journalist in federal court in Murray, et al. v. The Huffington Post, Inc. et al.

The facts of this case stem from the same occurrences that led to Murray, et al. v. The Huffington Post, et al.:  Mr. Murray’s termination of over 150 employees due to the re-election of President Obama, and complaints of health and safety violations in Murray Energy’s coal mines.  Mr. Murray’s actions sparked a backlash of commentary and community activism, including from a Chagrin Falls, Ohio activist group named Patriots for Change.

On December 17, 2013, the group, which included James and Lisa Ciocia, conducted a protest on a public right of way outside of offices owned by Murray in a Cleveland suburb.  The group held signs and made statements to the media that were critical of Mr. Murray and Murray Energy.  In response, Mr. Murray and various of his mining entities sued James and Lisa Ciocia in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas, for defamation and false light invasion of privacy. The Ciocias’ statements included the following:

  • Murray and MEC are not “loyal” to their employees;
  • Murray and MEC made the decision to lay off certain employees to make a “political statement”;
  • Murray and MEC repeatedly violate mining and health safety laws, environmental laws and labor laws;
  • Murray and MEC do not regard miners as people; and
  • MEC has a “shameful record of violating health, safety, and environmental law.”

Ruling on a summary judgment motion, the trial court found in favor of the Ciocias.  Murray appealed to the Eighth District Court of Appeals in Cuyahoga County.

Robert Murray, CEO of one of the largest independent coal-mining corporations in the country, Murray Energy (“MEC”), has filed numerous SLAPPs (or strategic lawsuits against public participation) against individuals critical of him and his corporation.  The ACLU of Ohio has already been involved in one SLAPP filed by Mr. Murray – when we successfully defended a Huffington Post contributing journalist in federal court in Murray, et al. v. The Huffington Post, Inc. et al.

Legal Theory:

This lawsuit is a quintessential SLAPP.  Mr. Murray and his team of lawyers are attempting to silence opponents who used speech to bring attention to issues affecting the public.

Status:

On July 16, 2015, we filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Eighth District Court of Appeals in support of Mr. and Mrs. Ciocia’s First Amendment right to free speech.  The brief was authored by cooperating attorney (and Board member) Jonathan Peters. Oral argument was scheduled to take place on October 22, 2015, but on October 5, 2015, Murray dismissed the lawsuit.