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Monday, July 25, 2011

Just In - Court Dismisses One Sisley Lawsuit Against SPS

As you may recall, one of the Roosevelt area landlords (we in the neighborhood sometimes refer to them as our alleged "slumlords"), Hugh Sisley and his wife, Martha, had sued the district over a Roosevelt High School student article about their properties.  The reporter had stated that they had been "accused of racist renting policies" and the Sisleys were suing for defamation of character.

The Superior Court of King County  found for the district on all counts.  It ruled that:
  • SPS is not "vicariously liable for the student's allegedly defamatory statement that the plaintiffs were accused of racist renting policies"
  • the plaintiffs did not prove, "consistent with the First Amendement" that SPS should have censored the reporter's speech
  • that the article was a "non-actionable opinion that is not defamatory as a matter of law"
  • "Plaintiffs are unable to prove the statement that Hugh and Drake Sisley had been 'accused of racist renting policies' is false."
  • "Plaintiffs are unable to prove the defendant was at fault for the student's speech or at best is negligent."
  • "Plaintiffs are unable to prove the student's statement caused damage to their reputation."  (Even I could have told you that.)
Score one for free speech, student reporting and SPS.  

I believe there is still another lawsuit against SPS from the Sisleys over the same article but this one is about the issue of the reporter claiming the properties are "crack shacks and ghetto houses."  Unfortunately, for the Sisleys, one of their houses (right across from the school) had been taken over by squatters who used heroin in it.   I know this for a fact so I would think that the Court might rule in SPS's favor on that lawsuit as well.   I cannot comment on whether the properties are "ghetto houses" - you'd have to come see for yourself if you would make that judgment.

2 comments:

Mark T. Weber said...

Melissa,
Living just up the hill from Roosevelt in Maple Leaf I am very familiar with the Sisley’s houses and I agree with you. I grew up on 16th Ave NE between 63rd and 65th when on the corner of 65th and 15th was a Texaco station on one side, a Mobile station on the other and where Pizza Hut is now, was a big pink barn. I got my hair cut at the barber shop for a buck and delivered the University Herald newspaper between 65th and 70th, 15th Ave to 20th Ave.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your point of view, neighborhoods change. Long gone are the gas stations, the pink barn got torn down and Mike’s Burger Bar got built and replaced with several businesses over the past 40 years. The barber shop is closed and the University Herald went away as well.

Eventually the Sisleys will go as well. I just hope sooner rather than later.

StepJ said...

One small victory.

The Sisley's have put in a revised ordinance change request to construct a mere 12 story building directly south of RHS vs. a 16 story building.