Federal Court Dismisses Racketeering Counts Against Greenpeace

January 22, 2019

Today, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a landmark decision [1] dismissing all claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) in the case brought by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Greenpeace International, Stand.earth, and five individual defendants [2].

The same court had previously dismissed the entire case and ordered the logging company to pay defendants’ legal fees in October 2017. However, Resolute Forest Products decided to file a repackaged version of the same baseless claims three weeks later. According to today’s order, the case will continue without the highly contentious racketeering charges and the vast majority of defamation claims.

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in response to the decision:

“The judge’s decision to throw out the abusive racketeering charges is a positive development and a win for advocacy. From day one, it was clear Resolute intended to bully legitimate advocacy organizations and forest defenders by abusing laws designed to curtail the mafia. The judge made it clear this would not be tolerated. If the logging giant continues to pursue its desperate strategy to silence civil society by appealing this decision in the U.S. or continuing its legal attack in Canada, we are confident such tactics will meet the same dead end. Millions around the country and the world agree that free speech is vital for the protection of our communities and the planet. Together, we will fearlessly fight the remaining very narrow defamation charges and prevail because our work is grounded in the best available science.

“Today’s landmark decision should be a lesson for other corporate bullies attempting the same underhanded legal tactics, like Energy Transfer, that they will not succeed in attempts to criminalize free speech. We will continue to speak truth to power.”

The charges dismissed today were included in Resolute Forest Products’ second strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) aiming to silence Greenpeace entities. In 2013, the logging company filed a separate defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario. This case is still pending and Greenpeace Canada continues to vigorously fight the remaining claims.

Greenpeace defendants in the U.S. are represented in court by the law firm Davis Wright Tremaine; EarthRights International attorneys have provided advice and support as consulting counsel.

Katie Redford, Co-founder and Director of EarthRights International, added :

“Companies like Resolute have always tried to use their money and power to scare their critics into silence. Nobody likes a bully, and these legal bullying tactics will not prevail. Now, more than ever, we are committed to defending the free speech rights of individuals and organizations like Greenpeace, and so many others, that our democracy and our planet depend upon.”  

ENDS

Notes:

[1] Click here to download a copy of the order, or copy this to your browser: https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/MTD-Decision-GP-RFP-2019.pdf

[2] On May 31, 2016 Resolute Forest Products filed a CAD$300 million lawsuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and other claims in the United States District Court for Southern Georgia, against Greenpeace International, Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., Stand.earth (formerly ForestEthics), and five individual staff members of these independent organizations.

The case was transferred to Northern California on May 16, 2017 when Resolute failed to demonstrate that the case should be heard in Georgia. On October 16, 2017 the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed Resolute’s claims. Three weeks later, Resolute’s lawyers filed a repackaged version of the same claims against the same individual defendants in the same court.

This bully racketeering case is Resolute’s second strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) aiming to silence Greenpeace entities. In 2013, the company filed a CAD$7 million defamation case against Greenpeace Canada and two staff members in Ontario, which is still pending. Click here for more information about the existing legal cases between Resolute Forest Products and Greenpeace, or copy this to your browser: http://www.greenpeace.org/resolutelawsuits/

[3] In August 2017, Kasowitz Benson Torres LLC filed a US$900 million lawsuit on behalf of Energy Transfer, the company behind the Dakota Access pipeline, against Greenpeace, Inc., Greenpeace Fund, Inc., Greenpeace International and others for defamation and other claims, including some under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Kasowitz Benson Torres is the same law firm representing Resolute Forest Products, making the Energy Transfer’s case the the second strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) Kasowitz filed against Greenpeace entities, alleging that legitimate advocacy work is criminal activity. Kasowitz Benson Torres is one of President Donald Trump’s go-to law firms. Click here for more information about the existing legal case between Energy Transfer and Greenpeace, or copy this to your browser: https://www.greenpeace.org/defendingprotest

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