Michael D. Miness, president of the Glengariff Corporation, has filed a 52-page legal brief with the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court in Brooklyn seeking to reverse the decision of Nassau County Supreme Court Justice John DiNoto who dismissed Mr. Miness' libel action against the Glen Cove GOP and David Zatlin. According to the suit, Miness charges that the GOP, in its publication, The Glen Cove Republican, defamed him with claims that he and Glengariff had made contributions to the campaign of Mayor Thomas Suozzi for the purpose of buying the mayor's silence on a Glengariff application before the Glen Cove planning board to construct an additional nursing home facility. According to the papers filed in court, the negative articles about Miness, which appeared in The Glen Cove Republican that was mailed to all Glen Cove residents, amounted to false charges that Miness had engaged in bribing a public official and conspiracy to engage in bribery.
In a decision handed down last April, Justice DiNoto declared that the statements made in the GOP newspaper against Mr. Miness were not defamatory because there was no "clear assertion of criminality" charged against him. In dismissing the case, Justice DiNoto also ruled that the statements viewed by Mr. Miness as defamatory and an attack upon his name and reputation were only "opinions" and not "facts," and therefore they would not be sufficient to support a legal claim for defamation. The judge also threw out the GOP's counterclaim for damages against Miness and Glengariff in which they claimed that the libel suit was a so-called "SLAPP suit", (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation). According to the GOP, the only reason for Miness bringing the libel suit in the first place was to silence opposition to the Glengariff application to expand its business. Justice DiNoto wrote that he did not find "that the [Miness] complaint is so meritless as to warrant relief under [the anti-SLAPP] law."
In his appellate brief, Mr. Miness argues that even after the alleged defamation occurred, David Zatlin reaffirmed it in public. In the legal brief, Miness states that all of the defendants "remained silent, except for defendant, David Zatlin.....Undeterred, defendant Zatlin went public again and stated in the Record-Pilot, 'We stand by everything....; it's all verifiable and the facts speak for themselves.' However, neither defendant Zatlin nor any of the other defendants ever came forward with such verification." In the papers submitted to the appellate court, Mr. Miness asserts that "you can't have it both ways." Miness also stated that if his complaint has enough merit for the court to deny relief to the GOP under the anti-SLAPP law, then how could the court dismiss his lawsuit for failing to state a legal claim?
When reached for comment as to why Mr. Miness chose to appeal the dismissal of his libel suit, his attorney, Michael A. Levy of Manhasset, stated, "Mr. Miness has lived and worked in Glen Cove for years and has served the community with distinction. While the Glen Cove Republicans may feel that his reputation can be used as fodder for their political cannons in an election, he feels otherwise. He's just an individual trying to stand up to a whole political organization in order to fight for his reputation and good name."
After all legal arguments are filed in the case, it is expected that the Appellate Division will rule sometime in early 1999.