by Deepak Gupta
Although it's not a consumer law case, I thought I should mention our victory today in an interesting First Amendment case that I argued last week in Utah. The case involved political criticism of a corporation, but it could also provide an important precedent for cases involving critical commentary by consumers about goods and services. The Salt Lake City Tribune ran this article about the argument last week; you can read early coverage of the decision here, here, and here. Dan Berman of Politico covered the case here.
The court's thorough and well-reasoned 18-page decision dismissed Koch Industries’ lawsuit against my clients, a group of anonymous climate-change activists known as Youth for Climate Truth. The judge ruled that Youth for Climate Truth had a First Amendment right to issue a satirical press release and website – in which the group impersonated Koch and announced that the company had reversed its position on climate change – in an effort to call attention to Koch’s notorious bankrolling of efforts to deny climate change.
I'm pleased that the court affirmed our clients’ First Amendment right to engage in anonymous political speech and rejected Koch’s sweeping legal theories. The case is particularly noteworthy for its rejection of Koch's terms-of-use and Computer Fraud and Abuse Act claims, which as far as I can tell were unprecedented. Ultimately, the court seems to have seen the suit for what it was: nothing but a well-financed attempt by Koch to bully its political opponents into submission.