June 10, 2010; Source: SF Weekly | The very well known Tenderloin Housing Clinic has been a friend to tenants in the hot San Francisco housing market for many years. Its online news source, BeyondChron.org, tracks landlord-tenant issues and the uses (and sometimes abuses) of government housing moneys. Recently, it reported on a landlord who it alleged violated the terms of a city loan for lead paint abatement (in part because she evicted a tenant during the process).
The landlord countered she had never been sued by the city, though she has had contentious legal interactions with the Housing Clinic, and she sued BeyondChron.org for defamation.
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The facts? The landlord’s husband was sued, not her, though she was referenced in the briefs as one of the parties violating the terms of the city loan. So she’s been defamed because the nominal defendant in the case was her husband, even though it’s clear that she’s also part and parcel (or party) to the case.
This may sound like a tempest in a teapot, but it shows how some nonprofit critics and opponents will take to the courts to press their point, sometimes with deeper pockets than most nonprofits have at their disposal, and if there are publications involved, potentially raising questions of legal liability. One hopes that “SLAPP” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) cases like this one are quickly seen by the courts for what they are and tossed out before the nonprofit has to spend unnecessary funds defending itself against unwarranted legal actions.—Rick Cohen