On September 10, 2021, the ACLU of Maine submitted a “friend of the court” brief in Dana Cheng and Epoch Group v. Dan Neumann and Maine People’s Alliance d/b/a Beacon. In this case, the ACLU and the ACLU of Maine are supporting Dan Neumann, a reporter at the Beacon, against a defamation lawsuit.
In our brief, we explain that Neumann's and the Beacon's reporting are protected under the First Amendment and under New York’s anti-SLAPP statute, which bars lawsuits brought to chill public participation. We argue that, as public figures, the plaintiffs do not meet their very high burden under the First Amendment to show the news organization published the alleged false statements with actual malice or reckless disregard of the truth. Additionally, we argue that under New York's anti-SLAPP statute, the article published by the Beacon is speech bearing on the public interest, which is unquestionably protected by the law.
In February 2022, the District Court dismissed the lawsuit against journalist Dan Neumann and the news organization, Beacon. The plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the First Circuit United States Court of Appeals. In September 2022, we filed a “friend of the court” brief with the First Circuit, underscoring the important First Amendment principles at stake in this case. On October 25, 2022, the First Circuit affirmed the District Court’s dismissal of Cheng and Epoch Group’s defamation claims on First Amendment grounds.