In October, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ernest M. Hiroshige dismissed Republican media consultant Donald Sipple’s $12.6 million libel suit against Mother Jones and contributing writer Richard Blow, ruling that the suit was not a legitimate grievance but a SLAPP (a strategic lawsuit against public participation).
SLAPPs are frivolous suits aimed at suppressing free speech—usually by tying up defendants in legal red tape for years—rather than seeking compensation for damages. Sipple, who has crafted ad campaigns for such GOP heavyweights as Bob Dole and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, had filed the suit in response to Blow’s article “The True Character of a Spin Doctor?” (September/ October 1997). The article detailed allegations that Sipple beat his two ex-wives.
Following the story’s release, Sipple resigned from Republican Vito Fossella’s congressional campaign in New York under pressure from the Democratic candidate (Fossella won the race in November); his longtime client Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) said he would not hire Sipple for his 1998 re-election campaign; and many of Sipple’s clients, including Gov. Bush, said they would reconsider keeping him as an adviser.
Gary Bostwick, Sipple’s attorney, was quoted in the Washington Post saying he was “very disappointed and a little surprised” by the judge’s decision—which also required that Sipple pay a portion of Mother Jones‘ legal bills.
“This case was a continuation of the kind of abuse [Sipple] has dished out to his wives over the years. This is how bullies should be handled,” says Mother Jones lawyer Ed Davis of the decision. At press time, Sipple had not filed an appeal, but Bostwick has said that he intends to.