We were first introduced to Highland Park developer, Humble Oil heir andHiram Walker
distant relation Hiram Walker Royall in December 2008,
connected to the 2007 tomeBulldozed: "Kelo," Eminent Domain and the American Lust for Land
. And by everyone, I meaneveryone
: the author (Carla Main), the publisher (Encounter Books) and even those who'd reviewed the book and contributed back-cover blurbs in praise of the book, which details Royall's involvement in a legal matter, baby, over some land grabbed from a family shrimping business in Freeport to make way for his marina development.
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Long story short: The case -- the kind of knee-SLAPP-er the state Legislature's considering cracking down on -- comes to Royall's back yard tomorrow morning, when Dana Berliner, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, and Royall's attorneys square off in oral arguments at the Fifth District Court of Appeals downtown. The giddy-up starts at 11 a.m.; Patrick Michels plans on procuring a front-row seat. The Institute for Justice is asking the judges toss the case; Royall's attorneys insist in court documents that, look, "H. Walker Royall is a private citizen who has never sought publicity and who values his privacy," the marina was Freeport's idea in the first place, and he didn't do nothin' wrong, so there.
Those looking to bone up on the case will find on the other side three fascinating reads -- the Institute for Justice's initial brief presented to the Fifth District, Royall's response, and the Institute for Justice's response to the response filed a couple of weeks ago. Long story even shorter, says the latter doc: "The true gist of Bulldozed is political and social criticism of the use of eminent domain for private development. Royall is certainly entitled to disagree. But he cannot, by way of this lawsuit, seek to elevate that disagreement to a claim for defamation -- much less attempt to suppress Appellants' speech by banning the book altogether." To which Berliner adds, "If Walker Royall doesn't want anyone to talk about him or his development deals, he shouldn't enter into deals that involve a city condemning his neighbors' property."
Jump for a little light reading. Though, be warned, you might get sued.