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Olympia Food Co-Op Decision Release-2 27 12

Olympia Food Co-Op Decision Release-2 27 12

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Published by JewishVoiceforPeace

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Published by: JewishVoiceforPeace on Feb 27, 2012
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02/27/2012

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Contact:Jen Nessel, CCR, (212) 614-6449,press@ccrjustice.orgJayne Kaszynski, Olympia Food Co-op, 360-357-1106 x11, publicrelations@olympiafood.coop 
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Filed Over Boycott of Israeli Goods
Court Finds Suit Is Effort to Chill Boycotters’ Public StatementsOn Issue of Public Concern
 February 27, 2012, Olympia, WA and New York, NY 
 – Today, in a lawsuit brought against currentand former members of the Olympia Food Co-op board of directors for their decision to boycottIsraeli goods, a Washington State court dismissed the case, calling it a SLAPP – StrategicLitigation Against Public Participation – and said that it would award the defendants attorneys’fees, costs, and sanctions. The judge also upheld the constitutionality of Washington’s anti-SLAPP law, which the plaintiffs had challenged.In a court hearing last Thursday, lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) andDavis Wright Tremaine LLP argued that the court should grant the defendants’ Special Motion toStrike and dismiss the case because it targeted the constitutional rights of free speech and petitionin connection with an issue of public concern.“We are pleased the Court found this case to be what it is – an attempt to chill free speech on amatter of public concern. This sends a message to those trying to silence support of Palestinianhuman rights to think twice before they bring a lawsuit,” said Maria LaHood, a senior staff 
 
attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.On Thursday, the courtroom was filled with interested observers, and boycott supporters held arally outside the courthouse. Today, the courtroom was filled to overflowing and many co-opsupporters spilled into the hallway."We're thrilled that the court saw fit to protect the board's right to free speech. This decisionaffirms the right to engage in peaceful boycotts without fear of being dragged through expensivelitigation,” said Bruce E.H. Johnson of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, who drafted WashingtonState’s Anti-SLAPP law.Also at the hearing on Thursday, the court denied plaintiffs’ motion for discovery, which soughtto depose defendants and obtain documents. The defendants’ attorneys had argued that lengthydepositions and voluminous document production is precisely the type of burden the anti-SLAPPstatute was intended to prevent. Before the case was filed, the plaintiffs sent the co-op boardmembers a letter indicating that plaintiffs would bring a “complicated, burdensome, andexpensive” legal action if the co-op did not end the boycott.“Today’s victory is not only for the Co-op, but one for free speech,” said Jayne Kaszynski,spokesperson for the Olympia Food Co-op, and one of the defendants in the case. “We look forward to returning all of our energy to the Co-op’s mission.”SLAPPs are lawsuits that target the constitutional rights of free speech and petition in connectionwith an issue of public concern Although many cases that qualify as SLAPPs are without legalmerit, they can nonetheless effectively achieve their primary purpose: to chill public debate onspecific issues. Defending against a SLAPP requires substantial money, time, and legalresources, and can divert attention away from the public issue and intimidate and silence other speakers. Washington State’s Anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 2010 to deter such lawsuits.The boycott is part of a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement againstIsrael for what boycotters say are violations of international law and the denial of Palestinianhuman rights. The lawsuit seeks to prevent enforcement of the boycott policy and to collectmonetary damages against the 16 past and current board members. The case was filed by five co-op members, purporting to bring the suit on behalf of the co-op itself, which has approximately22,000 members.The Olympia Food Co-op is a nonprofit corporation that was formed in Olympia, Washington in1976. The co-op seeks to make good food accessible to more people while encouragingeconomic and social justice, and it has a long history of social justice work. In 2010, the board passed a resolution by consensus to boycott Israeli goods.

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