A state judge has granted a motion to dismiss St. Martinville Mayor Thomas Nelson’s claims that accused one of his constituents, Espinola Quinn, of slander for comments she made to the Washington Post. The American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, who represented Quinn in the litigation, called the lawsuit an attack on free speech designed to silence the Mayor’s critics and punish dissent.
ACLU of Louisiana staff attorney Bruce Hamilton had this statement: “Espinola Quinn exercised her First Amendment right to speak to a reporter regarding a matter of public concern—and for that she was slapped with a frivolous lawsuit and dragged into court by her own mayor. The Mayor’s motion to dismiss his groundless claims indicates that he may have come to his senses, but not before subjecting Espinola to the unnecessary stress and cost of a frivolous lawsuit. We live in a democracy, not a dictatorship. Public officials are supposed to serve their constituents, not use the courts to bully and silence them.”
Espinola Quinn stated: “It was important for me to set an example to my children and grandchild about standing up and speaking up for the right thing in the face of so called giants in today’s culture.”
She added her thanks to ACLU Foundation of Louisiana Staff Attorney Bruce Hamilton and cooperating counsel David Benoit.
On June 19, 2017, The Washington Post published a news article that examined rural Americans’ views of race. The article focused on St. Martinville, Louisiana, and it included comments by residents Mayor Nelson. Quinn, a prominent town resident who campaigned for clerk of court, was featured prominently in the article, in which she made comments critical of the mayor.
On July 7, 2017, the mayor sued Quinn for libel, slander, and defamation, filing a petition in the 16th Judicial District Court in St. Martinville.