On Friday, March 9, a court ended a seven-year old lawsuit against former board members of the Olympia Food Co-op over their decision to boycott Israeli goods. The court, in agreeing that the plaintiffs had failed to show any injury to the Co-op because of the boycott, granted the motion for summary judgment by former board members, who are represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and co-counsel Davis Wright Tremaine LLP and Barbara Harvey.
“This victory comes as other courts are beginning to weigh in favor of our right to boycott, and affirms that harassing, meritless lawsuits will not win,” said director of Palestine Legal, Dima Khalidi. “While it has taken seven years and many resources to defend against, the decision should give new confidence to those who have been chilled from taking action against injustice because of these legal threats.”
The lawsuit was first filed in 2011 in a Washington State court by five Co-op members seeking to block the Co-op's boycott and to collect monetary damages against the board members, claiming that they had acted beyond the scope of their authority and breached their fiduciary duties.
The case was initially dismissed in 2012 and the plaintiffs were ordered to pay attorneys’ fees on the basis that the lawsuit was a “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” (SLAPP), aiming to stifle the Co-op’s political viewpoint supporting Palestinian rights. The anti-SLAPP law itself was subsequently stricken in 2015, and the suit was reinstated.
Palestine Legal Brief Exposes Evidence of Israeli Government Coordination
Palestine Legal and partners filed an amicus brief in 2014 exposing evidence that, in coordination with Israeli government officials, far-right pro-Israel group StandWithUs, known for numerous other aggressive and intimidating attacks on advocates for Palestinian rights and boycott campaigns in particular, facilitated the lawsuit. The brief explained that the true intent behind the lawsuit was to chill First Amendment-protected boycotts for Palestinian rights – a claim vociferously denied by the plaintiffs.
Plaintiffs’ Emails Reveal Stifling Intent and StandWithUs Connection
Documents produced by the plaintiffs, however, reveal that the suit’s purpose was indeed to chill other boycotts. In a 2012 email, Plaintiff Susan Mayer boasts that their lawsuit had “discouraged other coops from taking similar measures, and at this point, we have been successful in drawing a line!” She also expressed gratitude to StandWithUs for “providing the legal team and raising all the [appeal bond] money.”
A second plaintiff, Linda Davis, disapproved of posting the message to a listserv because “it mentions some still-confidential and controversial issues involving our lawsuit,” telling Mayer that while “others will want to know that our legal action has been successful in stopping other food coops from enacting similar boycotts against Israel, the information about the money from StandWithUs and other details should probably not be divulged to others right now, especially in writing.”
For full briefing, see CCR’s case page on here.
See Palestine Legal Amicus here.