Supreme Court Ruling SC2003-181:
The plaintiff, Stephen Alves (Alves or the plaintiff), appealed from a grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant, Alan G. Palazzo (Palazzo or the defendant).
Alves sued Palazzo for libel and portraying him in a false light for letters that Palazzo wrote to the editor of the Kent County Daily Times. Palazzo’s letters concerned the actions of Alves and others on the West Warwick Town Council and School Building Committee over a proposed school building project.
The Superior Court granted summary judgment for the defendant pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 9-33-1 and § 9-33-2 of the Limits on Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation Act (the anti-SLAPP statute). The Superior Court also awarded the defendant costs and attorneys’ fees.
The Supreme Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment. It held that Palazzo’s letters, which expressed his concerns over the escalating costs of the school building project, were prototypical examples of protected free speech directed to members of the interested community over matters of public concern that are being considered by a governmental body. Furthermore, the statements of which the plaintiff complained were clearly statements of the defendant’s opinion based on previously disclosed facts.
The Supreme Court also affirmed the award to Palazzo of costs and attorneys’ fees.