GA Supreme Court limits anti-SLAPP law

Woman loses suit claiming whistleblower protections because she made allegations on Web, email rather than official hearings.

The Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who criticized a nonprofit organization for the care it provided to her disabled son was not protected against a defamation lawsuit by the state's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Georgia Community Support and Solutions Inc. hailed the ruling as a protection against defamation but free speech advocates said it limits the rights of whistleblowers.

"This opinion is an unfortunate shift away from protecting the rights of Georgians to speak out on matters of public concern," said Hollie Manheimer, executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation. "This limitation of the anti-SLAPP statute's reach may force citizens to choose silence over speech."

Shirley Berryhill had sent emails to the Journal-Constitution, the state government and several dozen individuals, alleging that her disabled son was not receiving adequate treatment at GCSS. She also posted her allegations on a Web site.

The state Supreme Court ruled that Berryhill was not protected by the anti-SLAPP provisions because she did not level her complaints during an official proceeding where her concerns could be investigated.

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