ACLU Versus Wendy McCaw

Civil Rights Group Comes to Defense of Small Business

Thursday, December 21, 2006
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Oh no, Wendy, now you've done it.

Remember those letters you had your attorney Barry Cappello send out the other day to Santa Barbara's small business owners? Yea, those ones, the letters where you threatened to sue hair dressers and sandwich makers for posting those lovely orange "McCaw Obey the Law" placards, causing magazines and newspapers all over the world to once again take note of the wacky state of daily newspapering in sunny Santa Barbara.

Well, it seems that you've pissed off the wrong people. aclu.png That would be the American Civil Liberties Union, a little group better known to the rest of the lawsuit-fearing world simply as the ACLU.

According to a press release put out this morning, the ACLU of Southern California has sent a letter to McCaw and Cappello telling them that the letters were incorrect and the threats must be stopped. mccaw%20obey%20law.jpg (Read the letter yourself here.)

The ACLU letter informed Cappello and McCaw that the signs are not defamatory because they are involved in the ongoing labor dispute at the paper, wherein 80 percent of the newsroom voted in favor of unionization (33 were for it and six were against). Plus, thanks to her constant barrage of headline-grabbing legal attacks and poorly explained firings, McCaw now qualifies as a public figure, and the burden to show malice against public figures is exceedingly high.

"It is outrageous that a lawyer would send out a threatening letter that shows such a misunderstanding of the law and it is even more outrageous that the owner of a newspaper who should be a champion of free speech is instead trying to silence the voices of members of the community," explained Peter Eliasberg, the Manheim Family Attorney for First Amendment Rights for the SoCal chapter of the ACLU. Wait, we thought Cappello was a great attorney. How can this be?

The letter itself concludes with, "In light of the well-established law, I trust neither you or any other lawyer for Ms. McCaw or the News-Press will be sending threatening letters to Santa Barbara residents who choose to weigh in with opinions on the News-Press's labor dispute with its employees." Ouch. Can someone say "veiled threat"?

So how's it taste, Wendy? A little of your own medicine? We've heard that spoonfuls of sugar make it go down a little easier.

For a better look at the signs that started the whole uproar, check out this bigger image below.


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