Last year this LOLsuit was filed against Philadelinquency by Marc Stein-owned Club Aura, a nuisance* nightclub that was ruining the lives of neighbors on the block of Front and Fairmount with late-night raucous let-outs, overtly loud sound systems, a documented stabbing and shooting and a penchant for operating illegally after it had been candy-striped by the Department of Licenses and Inspections, twice.
In retaliation against neighbors in Northern Liberties complaining about the club, Marc Stein sued a large group of neighbors living next to his club, the City, the Police, the 6th District police captain, a Phila. Police Dept. sergeant and the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association and its president. For good measure, he also tossed in this blog and Philebrity for reporting what happened.
The basis for Mr. Stein’s suit centered on a theory that everyone who complained about the club was engaged in a racially-motivated conspiracy to get rid of it. What evidence did Mr. Stein produce that revealed a racial conspiracy existed? None. It seems like Marc Stein never used a Magic Google™ Machine to see that NLNA has had beefs with all sorts of establishments that don’t play nice.
Stein’s lawsuit is a classic example of SLAPP: Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. In a SLAPP lawsuit the plaintiff filing the lawsuit doesn’t really care about winning so much as causing all the defendants to rack up legal bills defending themselves from the suit, which is what is happening here. SLAPP suits helped bring about the demise of the Old City Civic Association.
During a recent court-ordered deposition, Stein was asked to read and validate a litany of police reports involving Club Aura and could not describe what was written about him on PDQ that was precisely defamatory. Several negative comments were made about Club Aura on its Yelp page, but Stein chose not to add Yelp as a defendant. Stein also admitted on the record that he continues to have live DJs at Club Aura even though Aura does not possess a Special Assembly Occupancy License, which is a requirement for most nightclubs in the city. Stein continues to maintain that he possesses a temporary SAOL permit, although no such thing exists with respect to Aura.
Filing frivolous lawsuits can have consequences. I have spent a lot of money defending myself against Marc Stein’s lawsuit, as have the other defendants. Both Philadelinquency and the Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association are fighting back and have filed counterclaims seeking $350,000 compensation (each) for abusing the legal process in Mr. Stein’s attempt to drain us of cash. SLAPP suits tend to become costly as each court filing is added on top of a growing pile. As Pennsylvania does not have an anti-SLAPP law, this makes it easy for plaintiffs to exhaust their defendants. It also puts a chilling effect on public speech, as critical reporting is hushed just due to the fear of a SLAPP suit.
In order to stop this nightmare I am making preparations for a jury trial in Federal court next year.
Even after Mr. Stein’s lawsuit is over, it will not stop there. As I write this, PDQ’s legal department is putting together a separate new lawsuit against Marc Stein (personally) and Club Aura under Pennsylvania’s Dragonetti Act, which allows victims of baseless frivolous lawsuits to turn the tables and pursue those who have sued them.
When neighbors complained about Club Aura’s noise and its let-outs, Club Aura’s response was to sue its neighbors and claim they are all racists. When Club Aura was candy-striped the first time, they tried to scratch the L&I placard off the building while its violation was still outstanding. Club Aura went to Common Pleas court hoping to get around L&I by seeking a court-ordered SAOL permit, which was not only shot down by Judge Idee Fox, but she ordered the DJ booth removed, stop the dancing and to operate as it was permitted: as a bar and restaurant. Essentially: everyone else is to blame for Club Aura’s problems, except Club Aura.
This feeble attempt to use the Federal courts to shut a civic association and neighbors up who have a right to speak and also myself for writing about it, shall not stand.
* I have to point out here that I use the word nuisance in its colloquial form as understood by laypeople; not some official City-contrived declaration as the lawyers involved in the case have been bickering over my use of that word.
Philadelinquency is represented by the best First Amendment defense team in America: A. Jordan Rushie and Marc J. Randazza, of the Randazza Legal Group.Tags: Club Aura | Jordan Rushie | Ken Manyin | Marc Randazza | Marc Stein | Marirose Roach | Northern Liberties Neighborhood Association | Old City Civic Association | Pennsylvania abuse of process | Randazza Law Group | Roach | SLAPP suits