Steve Bohnen and Keith Mueller, citizens of Grant, Minnesota, were involved in a lawsuit over their decision to report to the police what they suspected to be unlawful behavior. Mr. Mueller saw another man, Jeffrey Nielson, driving an SUV with a local political candidate's campaign sign on its roof. Mr. Mueller believed this particular sign belonged to someone else and followed the vehicle. Heated words were exchanged and Mr. Mueller thereafter called Steve Bohnen who owned the sign. Mr. Bohnen then called the police. Nielson then sued several defendants, including the city and Mr. Bohnen and Mr. Mueller, alleging he had been unfairly targeted for charges and that he was maliciously prosecuted (he was charged and convicted of disorderly conduct for the confrontation with Mr. Mueller). Many of the defendants were dismissed, but Mr. Mueller incurred over $100,000.00 in costs before he was dismissed from the case. Mr. Bohnen remained as a defendant and has incurred over $1 million to defend himself. Mr. Mueller and Mr. Bohnen are now fighting for legislation to pass in the Minnesota legislature to clarify language in the existing anti-SLAPP statute. This statute protects citizens who are engaging in their constitutionally protected right to engage in public participation. However, currently, the statute does not clearly protect a citizen who reports someone to the police. Such a gap in the statute language leaves citizens subject to lawsuits such as these, with little basis for the allegations and the possibility that the defendants will incur excessive legal costs to defend their case.
Attorney Lombardi's Comment: Anti-Slapp legislation was passed to stop rich & powerful people from shutting up those who might publically complain through the threat of a lawsuit and suing them in order to inflict litigation costs [attorney fees and costs of litigation]. Figuring those who can least afford lawyers, would be shut up by the threat of litigation, Anti-Slapp legislation was passed to protect the right to speak freely without the threat of being force to litigate; or if forced to litigate, to make the rich and those in power pay for their transgressions. Yup, so far you still have the right to complain publically. Perhaps the sandbox is getting too crowded.