NOTE: AN ERROR WAS MADE IN THE HEARING DATE. THE DATE IS MARCH 13, 2003 FOR THE HEARING. UFOWATCHDOG.COM THANKS YOU ALL FOR YOUR OVERWHELMING SUPPORT!
LAWSUIT AIMS TO SILENCE VOICE OF CRITIC IN UFO DEBATE
Supposed Psychic and Self Proclaimed UFO Authority Alleges Libel In Unfounded Lawsuit
Sean David Morton, who has promoted himself as "one of America's greatest psychics" and as the "world's foremost UFO researcher", has filed a one-million dollar defamation lawsuit against UFOWATCHDOG.COM.
Morton was the subject of a series of UFOWATCHDOG.COM articles, most notably 'The Shameless Psychic and His Prophecy of Lies' in which many of Morton's claims were called into serious question. Morton was invited to directly comment on the story, which was later published in February 2001. Morton failed to respond to several invitations for comment, including a posted open invitation on the UFOWATCHDOG.COM website.
In his lawsuit, Morton alleges all information pertaining to him published by UFOWATCHDOG.COM is "false", including an autobiography and a list of production/writing credits both authored by Morton himself. This leaves the question of why Morton would actually claim something written by him is false.
UFOWATCHDOG.COM editor Royce J. Myers III calls the lawsuit "completely meritless and an absolute abuse of the judicial system." Myers further added, " Mr.Morton is simply trying to use the courts by trampling on the First Amendment in an attempt to silence one of his numerous critics."
When asked about Morton's claim of being libeled, Myers said, "Mr.Morton's allegations are pure fantasy, as are the vast majority of his UFO and psychic claims. Mr.Morton was invited to comment and has, by choice, continually failed to respond or comment. Mr.Morton has been aware of UFOWATCHDOG.COM since it debuted in February 2001. You can't hold someone else accountable for your own failure to speak up."
"Mr.Morton apparently will go to any length in trying to silence someone with something to say about him, as he has named UFOWATCHDOG.COM's webhost as a defendant, which is ludicrous. Thanks to Mr.Morton's baseless lawsuit, the webhost has shut down the UFOWATCHDOG.COM website. The webhost has nothing to do with the content of the website. The lawsuit is clearly retaliatory and intended to stifle any debate about Mr.Morton's public claims about UFOs, the paranormal, and his alleged credentials. Essentially, he's trying to scare anyone from engaging him in the eye of the public and apparently is under the assumption that issues pertaining to UFOs and the paranormal are one-sided debates solely for him to participate in." Myers stated.
Prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney Carol A. Sobel, representing UFOWATCHDOG.COM, responded to the complaint. On February 20, 2003, Sobel filed a motion to have the lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that Morton is "...prevent[ing] Defendants from engaging in protected expressive activities -- namely calling into question [Morton's] self-proclaimed national expertise on extraterrestrial life, UFOs, and the paranormal."
Filed under a special California state law enacted in 1992 to combat what the California Legislature called "...a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech", the state law protects people from defamation and other SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) lawsuits. The motion allows for the lawsuit to be quickly dismissed when such complaint arises from the exercise of First Amendment petition and free speech rights on an issue of public interest.
Sobel noted in the motion to dismiss the lawsuit, "The existence of extraterrestrial life is unquestionably a matter of great public interest. People all over the world are engaged in research to answer the question of whether such life exists. Needless to say, this matter is quite controversial, bringing with it vehemently contrasting positions based on scientific and religious grounds."
A hearing on the motion is scheduled for March 13, 2003 at 8:30AM in L.A. Superior Court in department E at 825 Maple Ave., Torrance, California.
Since early 2001, UFOWATCHDOG.COM has been a news source for both UFOs and the paranormal. Most notably, UFOWATCHDOG.COM has challenged a number of the claims made by well known UFO personalities, has provided commentary on the UFO and paranormal fields, as well as having exposed UFO hoaxes all in an effort to further more rational and scientific debate regarding issues such as UFOs and the paranormal.
Release compiled by C. O'Shaughnessy