DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
COURT OF APPEALS
REC'D OCT. 17, 1986
Appeal No. 86-678
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA COURT OF APPEALS
WILLIAM THOMAS, ET AL, Appellants,
WASHINGTON TIMES, ET AL, Appellees.
On Appeal From the Superior Court
of the District of Columbia,
APPELLANT'S RESPONSE TO APPELLEES' BRIEF
William Thomas, Appellant Pro Se,
in forma pauperis
1440 N Street NW, #410
Washington, DC 20005
Apppellants filed a Brief on September 2, 1986. On October 6, 1986 Appellees served, by mail an Appeal Brief. In response to Appellees Brief Appellants now file this document.
Appellees have presented two procedural issues which, it would appear, are now well-settled against them.
First, defendants had moved for dismissal pursuant to Super. Ct. R. 4. Appellees do not contest that any error in service which may have existed was corrected before the Complaint was dismissed. (Appellants Brief at 4 and 5, see also Motion for Summary Reversal, Attachments B. B(1), C, C(1), D, D(1).)
Second, defendants argued that the Complaint violated Super. Ct. R. 8. Appellees have cited Peebles v. Rudolph, 121 A 2d 264 (Appellees Brief at 4), in a perplexing attempt to characterize the simple, direct one (1) page Complaint as "a confusing recital of evidentiary matter."
Statement of the Case
Aside from those procedural points there remains only to focus on the merit of the case.
Appellees assert the Complaint fails to state a claim for defamation because the July 4, 1985 Capital Sketch article did not identify by name "Thomas nor the Peace Park (White House) Anti-nuclear Vigils" (Appellees' Brief at 7). They assert that "statements in an editorial or column published on the editorial or op-ed page are almost always held to be protected by the First Amendment since the context in which they appear indicates to any reasonable reader that these statements are opinion" (Appellees' Brief at 12). However, even without the extenuating circumstances present here, it has been alleged that there is a history behind this Complaint.
"This is not, by any means, the only occasion upon which the TIMES has acted intentionally or recklessly to distort the truth with respect to what they should have known to be activity essential to a democratic society and protected by United States Statutes and National Park Service permits.
"Defendants have falsely, maliciously, intentionally, and libelously represented (appellants) and/or their legal activities as 'childish willfulness,' 'delusions of the insane,' 'vague gibberish,' and 'the screwball left.' In publishing these willful misrepresentations, defendants have published a false image of appellants as 'bums' or 'weirdos,' causing them alienation from a substantial portion of the populace, and condoning and encouraging a continuous menace to (appellants') lives and well-being in pursuit of their lawfully permitted activities. (This situation) has directly and proximately caused (appellants) to suffer the infliction of emotional distress.
"Further, the TIMES has published other material with bearing on this case not attached to the Complaint." (Appellants' Brief, at 11; see also Opposition to Defendants' Motion to Dismiss, at 3.)
Had the lower Court directed that the Complaint be amended Appellants would have proven that the TIMES has been misrepresenting appellants and their activities... regularly, and often by name ...in both editorials, and news articles... since at least as early as October of 1982. For just two of numerous possible examples:
"A series of editorials in the Washington Times in February and March urged the Department of Interior to amend the regulations to prevent the 'defacing of a premier national symbol with garish placards and incoherent slogans.' The series helped to facilitate a final decision to ban all but hand-held signs, Park Service spokesman George Berklacy said....
"Officials said that two protesters, William Thomas and Concepcion Picciotto, have been stationed day and night in front of the White House for the past year with as many as twenty-five wall board signs and placards leaning against the fence. Even though numerous complaints have been received concerning the unsightliness of Thomas' and Picciotto's campaign, authorities said there was little they could do under the old regulations...." (Washington TIMES news article, written by Glenn Emery, April 25, 1983.)
"We appreciate and share your concern over word that the bums are back, littering the White House gate with their hand lettered messages. The day before yesterday we reported that the clutter of protest signs defacing Pennsylvania Avenue sidewalk had been cleared away by the United States Park Police.
"But the Feds can't keep the fence permanently clear of the wallboard placards. About all they can do is hustle off to jail the two day-in day-out regular sign owners, a woman named Concepcion Picciotto and a man named William Thomas...
"By Tuesday the signs were back ... they don't violate regulations and won't until the Interior Department issues the new regulations we've urged banning all but hand held signs....
"A permanent stay is crucial to a civilized society tired of having its pride in America mugged by pitiable lunatics, and an Appeals Court too cross-eyed to tell the difference between genuine free speech and permissive willfulness and the delusions of the insane." (Washington TIMES editorial, March 16, 1983.)
Although appellees have been quick to invoke the First Amendment in defense of their own interests (Appellees' Brief at 10), appellant Thomas has an actual respect far that specific tenet. For the most part that respect is what has prompted Thomas to suffer, for years, appellees' public abuse and ridicule of himself, his loved ones, and his own First Amendment activities.
Counsel would like this Court to believe that Mr. Masty innocently happened upon "an unusual series of events in the District of Columbia," and just expressed his opinions about what that he had seen (Appellees Brief), and that the Complaint sought to state a claim for conspiracy simply on the basis of the July 4, 1985 "Capital Sketch" article.
Appellants allege that scenario could not be further from the truth and Mr. Masty did not merely witness a series of events, but that he, in consort with at least one other Washington TIMES employee, acted with the intent to help create a series of events, at appellants' expense, to "cook up" a story for a "patriotic" 4th of July TIMES issue.
While the TIMES just sat in its offices and cast metaphorical stones, Thomas tolerated the lies. But when TIMES employees leave their offices at 4 a.m., to accompany a bunch of hammer-wielding known-but-unnamed ruffians to Lafayette Park for the purpose of tearing down First Amendment-protected signs, terrorizing the sign owners; then returning to their offices to write a pack of distortions intended to glorify thuggish behavior while writing off their harmless victims as the "screwball left," Thomas felt the the in-house TIMES conspirators had crossed the line of simple intolerance, and had joined the ranks of Inquisitors, witch-hunters, and active barbarians.
By adding participation in actual physical assaults on appellants' persons and property to their abstract literary attacks on appellants' civil rights it would seem that appellees' actions certainly became "extremely outrageous, beyond all bounds of decency, so atrocious as to be utterly intolerable in a civilized community" (Appellees Brief at 5). Unless this Court believes that journalistic terrorism should become an accepted form of punishment for the expression of personal opinion, Appellants urge this Court to remand this matter for determination as to whether there is merit to the facts alleged in the Complaint.
Respectfully submitted this 17th day of OCT, 1986.
William Thomas, Appellant Pro Se
1440 N Street NW, #410
Washington, DC 20005
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE BY MAIL
I, William Thomas, Appellant in the above entitled case, over the age of eigteen years, do hereby certify that on the date set forth above, a copy of the foregoing APPELLANTS' RESPONSE TO APPELLEES' BRIEF was addressed as follows, and thereafter mailed by U.S. Mail, First Class postage prepaid, to:
Allen V. Farber, Esquire #912865
Counsel for Defendants/Appellees
Scwalb, Donnenfeld, Bray and Silbert
Suite 300 East
1025 Thomas Jefferson Street, NW
Washington, DC 20007
1440 N Street NW, #410
Washington, DC 20005
Appellant Pro Se
Listing of Cases
Peace Park | People