Missouri SLAPP Stories

SLAPPs Against Missourians

  • In December of 2003, Thomas Diehl found himself embroiled in a dispute with trash disposal company Fred Weber, Inc. Diehl went to a public hearing to oppose an application for a trash transfer station, where he spoke publicly and distributed a handbill urging citizens to write to the city council opposing the station. Based on his statements, the trash company sued Diehl for defamation and civil conspiracy to defame, alleging actual damages in excess of $25 thousand, punitive damages of $5 million, and an award for costs, expenses, and attorneys’ fees. The company further asked that Diehl and others be enjoined from distributing the flyer and ordered to deliver any remaining flyers to the court for destruction. At the time of the trial, Missouri’s anti-SLAPP statute had not yet taken effect, and the trial court denied Diehl’s standard motion for dismissal. Following the denial, Diehl asked the appeals court for an extraordinary writ to force the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit. The appellate court noted that, although the anti-SLAPP statute was not yet in effect, “[p]ublic hearings are conducted in part to encourage public discourse,” and “the free exchange of ideas between citizens and government is a hallmark of democracy.” The appeals court issued the extraordinary writ and required the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit. State ex rel. Diehl v. Kintz, 162 S.W.3d 152 (2005).
  • In 2004, the city of St. Louis accepted a proposal for downtown revitalization that required the registered historical landmark Century Building to be razed and a parking garage erected in its place. Downtown St. Louis residents Marcia Behrendt and Roger Plackemeier attempted to save the landmark Century Building, by serving as plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit against the city and developer. In a shocking move, the City of St. Louis, the State of Missouri and the project developers filed a countersuit against the citizens, alleging malicious prosecution and seeking actual damages exceeding $1.5 million, plus punitive damages “in an amount sufficient to deter said defendants and others from like conduct.” The class action was made moot by the destruction of the Century building in 2005, but the government’s countersuit has continued for more than four years. Trial was set for September 14, 2009, but the government requested an extension, and the trial was moved to October. In August, neighborhood members held a fundraiser to help offset Behrendt and Plackemeier’s soaring l legal costs. Missouri Development Finance Board vs. Behrendt, Case #22052-01373 (Filed Apr. 19, 2005).

Missourians who Support the CPA

National Coalition for Freedom of Information

Missouri School of Journalism

Columbia, MO

Doug Crews
Executive Director, Missouri Press Association
Columbia, Missouri

Professor Charles Davis
Executive Director, National Freedom of Information Coalition
Missouri School of Journalism
Columbia, Missouri

Professor Daniel Mandelker
Professor of Law, Washington University in St. Louis School of Law
St. Louis, Missouri

The Creve Coeur SLAPP Targets:
Councilwoman Laura Bryant & Councilwoman Jeanne Rhoades
Vi Smith, Former Executive Vice President of Creve Coeur Olivette Chamber of Commerce
Terry Johnston & Keith Prokop, Creve Coeur Residents
Creve Coeur, Missouri