UFO Watchdog Prevails in Court
A classic UFO Watchdog article (c) by Royce Myers, III
Frivolous Litigation Fails To Silence Website
Touting himself as "one of America's greatest psychics", Sean David Morton didn't have the ability to foretell his own future when he filed a one-million dollar defamation lawsuit against the Internet website UFOWATCHDOG.COM and its editor Royce J. Myers III.
Morton alleged in a lawsuit that UFOWATCHDOG.COM and its editor had "printed false and libelous statements" in a series of articles appearing on the Internet. These articles, most notably 'The Shameless Psychic and His Prophecy of Lies', challenged many of Morton's public claims regarding his supposed psychic abilities, his UFO claims, and raised serious questions about Morton's alleged background and educational claims.
Representing UFOWATCHDOG.COM, well-known Los Angeles civil rights attorney Carol A. Sobel filed a motion to have Morton's lawsuit dismissed under a California statute enacted in 1992 to protect people from defamation and other Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). A SLAPP suit is usually filed under the guise of a defamation claim and is designed to silence outspoken opponents or critics by forcing them to devote time and resources in combating a lawsuit.
Once the motion to dismiss is filed by the defendant, the party filing the motion is faced with proving two burdens: The statements complained of were made on an issue of public interest and the statements were made in a public forum. The public forum in this matter was the UFOWATCHDOG.COM website and the public issue was Morton's alleged expertise and public claims regarding UFOs and paranormal phenomena, which are both obviously issues of public interest.
Sobel appeared at a hearing on March 13, 2003, in Los Angeles Superior Court before Judge Cary Nishimoto. In arguments submitted to the court on behalf of UFOWATCHDOG.COM, attorney Carol A. Sobel noted that Morton had "not submitted a shred of evidence to prove the falsity of even a single one of the alleged defamatory statements he claims Defendants made of and concerning him." A tentative ruling was issued by Judge Nishimoto in favor of UFOWATCHDOG.COM. The ruling was not final, as Judge Nishimoto provided Morton's attorney a second chance to file papers with the court to offer evidence of Morton's claims.
"Apparently Mr.Morton's attorney failed to file some papers with the court. The judge gave Mr.Morton's attorney another chance to file the papers. After the initial ruling, we had to wait for a final ruling from the court so the judge could take Mr.Morton's papers into account. Even with the judge giving Mr.Morton a second chance to offer proof to the court, it still didn't do any good," Myers said.
On April 1, 2003, Myers was notified of Judge Nishimoto's final ruling, which was in favor of UFOWATCHDOG.COM. In a two-page ruling and in the initial ruling, Judge Nishimoto stated that Morton had "not shown that he can prevail or show actual malice or that the matters complained of are not true..."
"Obviously, Judge Nishimoto made the appropriate decision. California's SLAPP statute gives a fair and open opportunity for the plaintiff to make their case. Mr.Morton created an opportunity for himself to prove the veracity of his claims publicly and he couldn't do it. Not only does the court's ruling vindicate UFOWATCHDOG.COM, it also serves to demonstrate that you can't extort people into silence by suing them."
UFOWATCHDOG.COM editor Royce J. Myers III will be appearing on various radio programs throughout the week discussing the lawsuit. On Tuesday, April 8, 2003, Myers will be a guest on the nationally syndicated Jeff Rense radio program and will also be a guest on Strange Days...Indeed hosted by Errol Bruce Knapp on Saturday, April 12, 2003.
Since early 2001, UFOWATCHDOG.COM has challenged a number of the claims made by well known UFO personalities, has provided commentary on the UFO and paranormal fields, has served as a news source for both UFOs and the paranormal 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
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