Today an abrupt end came to a lawsuit that Project Vote, an affiliate of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), had launched against Anita MonCrief, a vocal critic of both groups. The federal judge hearing the case ordered all claims dismissed based on a stipulation by the parties. Project Vote had sued MonCrief and an unidentified “John Doe” for $5 million in damages.
MonCrief worked for Project Vote for two years but became disillusioned by what she experienced there. In various venues, including testimony in court and before a congressional panel, on national television, and in her own blog, she detailed what she regarded as the corruption of both Project Vote and ACORN.
Project Vote’s lawsuit, filed last year in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, featured a slew of counts, including trademark infringement, tortious interference with prospective economic advantage, and trespass to chattels. Represented by the Kansas City law firm of Graves, Bartle, Marcus & Garrett and the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), MonCrief countersued both Project Vote and ACORN for abuse of process, alleging that ACORN was Project Vote’s alter ego and that the two groups had brought the suit to punish her for exercising her right to free speech and to uncover her sources.
Late last year, the judge dismissed the trademark claims, among others, but the rest of Project Vote’s suit and MonCrief’s countersuit against it and ACORN continued into the pretrial discovery phase. Before that phase went very far, however, the parties agreed to a settlement. In return for MonCrief’s dropping her countersuit for abuse of process, Project Vote agreed to dismiss its claims against her in their entirety.
“This is a stunning victory for Ms. MonCrief,” said Terry Pell, CIR’s president. “By dismissing all of its claims, Project Vote has canceled its arrogant attempt to silence a critic using the courts. Ms. MonCrief now is completely free to continue blogging and speaking about Project Vote and ACORN without fear of this action.”
Pell added, “And the utter failure of Project Vote’s suit should encourage others who wish to speak out against corruption at ACORN or anywhere else.”