DuPage judge dismisses Winfield trustee's lawsuit
A DuPage County judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit that a Winfield trustee filed against a local newspaper.
Trustee Tony Reyes filed the lawsuit in April against The Winfield Express and its editor and publisher, Robert Greer, after the newspaper published an article that made reference a 2004 decision by West Chicago-based Community High School District 94 to sell land to a developer.
At the time, Reyes said the April 15 article, which was written by Greer, falsely accused him of masterminding the controversial sale while he was a school board member.
But in a ruling this week, Judge Dorothy French Mallen found that the lawsuit was without merit. She then ordered Reyes to pay the newspaper's legal expenses and attorney's fees.
"I think that the judge got it right and this decision should stand if appealed," Greer said in written statement issued by the Citizen Advocacy Center. The Elmhurst-based center reached out to The Collins Law Firm to represent the newspaper.
"At CAC, we routinely defend against government tactics used to silence or retaliate against their critics," Maryam Judar, the center's executive director, said on Friday. "What makes this lawsuit so egregious is that it attempted to quash one of the few media outlets in the community. Fortunately, the Express contacted us and we secured pro bono assistance for them."
The judge's ruling came after the newspaper's attorney filed a motion for dismissal under the Citizen Participation Act, which is a law Illinois passed in 2007.
Reyes' attorney, Thomas E. Sullivan, said the Citizen Participation Act is an "aggressive" piece of legislation that "makes it very difficult for public officials to take any action when they've been defamed."
While the Citizen Participation Act is a developing area of law, Sullivan said he and his client "look forward to further developing it" by appealing the ruling.
"We've got our 30 days to make that decision or to file a motion to reconsider," Sullivan said. "But we're pursuing this matter to trial. I think that Tony has the right to go to trial. It likely will mean that we need to go to the appellate court in order to do that."