Originally emailed 3 July 2004
Utah ATers Using SLAPP Tactic to Silence Critic
Many of the battles over Attachment Therapy (AT) have, of late, been in Utah, where a small band of Attachment Therapists, and a cult of mothers (many of whom work as AT “trackers” and AT respite providers), have been defying regulators and frustrating attempts to legislate protections for the children they put at risk.
A day of reckoning is looming as a long-awaited regulatory hearing is being held this fall to determine whether the leading ATers in the state lose their social-work licenses over their AT activities. As this threat to their livelihoods has gotten closer, the ATers have gotten more desperate.
In a move with significant national implications, the “Cascade Center for Family Growth” has tried to drag AT critics into state court and silence them. A Cascade front-group sued Alan Misbach, LCSW, a long-time critic of AT, for being one of the contributors to the website KidsComeFirst (KCF), which provides a unique public service by making original public documents about AT (and its proponents) readily available on the Internet.
The front-group — “Hope for the Children” — falsely accuses Misbach and KCF of interfering with their “charity” fund-raising and wants the website shutdown immediately. As AT News reported last April, the plaintiffs hornswoggled a Utah state judge into wrongfully issuing a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that brought down the KCF website for about eleven days. As soon as Misbach was able to get the matter into court, the TRO was lifted and the website was back up — a tremendous victory, both for children and for the First Amendment.
However, that turned out not to have been the end of the story. Hope for the Children refiled their case, expanding their claims against Misbach, and adding Cascade Center itself and one of its owners as plaintiffs, thereby dropping the original façade that it was the HFC “charity” that was supposedly harmed by the revelations on the KCF website. The ATers are still pressing for an injunction to bring down the website.
The suit also claims ten “John Doe” defendants, in addition to Misbach. The intent is clearly to ultimately sue as many AT critics in Utah as possible through the process of discovery.
The lawsuit by Cascade and its minions is a classic SLAPP tactic. A “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” or SLAPP, is one that attempts to shut off public debate by using the courts. A SLAPP attempts to judicially bludgeon a financially weaker opponent into silence. Misbach has been SLAPPed — forced by a meritless lawsuit into having to defend the right to speak out under the First Amendment. And into paying for that defense out of his own pocket — defense lawyers don’t work on contingency.
Alan Misbach shouldn’t have to bear the entire burden of defending children and the First Amendment. He’s right on the First Amendment. He’s right on the AT issue. He’s right on the treatment of children. None of these positions should be lost solely for the reason that Misbach can’t afford to carry on a legal fight, or alternatively that he and his family should be financially drained to defend the right of all of us to speak out.
Thus, a legal defense fund for Alan Misbach has been established. We urge AT News readers to contribute. Contributions to the fund are kept in strict legal confidence (through lawyer-client privilege). Contributions should be mailed to:
Alan Misbach Legal Defense Fund
% Evan A. Schmutz
Hill Johnson & Schmutz, LLC
Attorneys and Counselors
3319 North University Avenue
Provo, UT 84604
Thank you for your help.
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