On July 31, 2018, the following was published by the International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (ILPDC*):
“Leonard received word the Washington case regarding his First Amendment Right to have his paintings shown in public spaces will be allowed to move forward.”
Peltier is willing to speak publicly about the federal civil suit, and so is the NPPA.
What follows is summarized or quoted (in italics) from publicly available records regarding Peltier’s lawsuit and his paintings displayed for sale on public property by the State of Washington: U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington-Tacoma Case No. 3:17-cv-05209-RBL, Leonard Peltier, Chauncey Peltier v. Joel Sacks, Et. Al.
Supporters, and others who are interested, are invited to review the entire public record for themselves. (see: https://casetext.com/case/peltier-v-sacks)
Peltier paintings & Washington State
During November 2015 the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I), held an American Indian Heritage Month event that displayed artwork by Native American Artists on public property in their Tumwater, Washington facility. Among the artwork were four pieces by Leonard Peltier along with a notation about where to purchase the paintings.
A number of retired FBI Agents took exception to the fact that the artwork of the convicted murderer of two already wounded FBI Agents was being displayed for sale on public property and contacted the media and L&I.
Also, letters were written to Washington State and L&I officials. Two letters that became an issue in the subsequent Peltier civil suit were from the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI (then president, Larry Langberg) and the No Parole Peltier Association founder, Ed Woods. The NPPA letter provided a brief review of Peltier’s history and respectfully asked that the appropriateness of displaying Peltier’s artwork for sale be reviewed. (Footnote #1)
In a letter dated November 19, 2015, L&I Director Joel Sacks, advised that Peltier’s artwork was removed from the display. (Fn.2)
Leonard Peltier, Chauncey Peltier v. Joel Sacks, Et. Al.
On March 21, 2017 Peltier filed a complaint in U.S. District Court (USDC) for the Western District of Washington against several individuals alleging violation of due process and equal protection, defamation, tortuous interference with a contract, etc. Specifically named were Joel Sacks, L&I Director, Timothy Church, L&I Public Affairs Manager, Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, Larry Langberg and Ed Woods.
The nineteen-page complaint alleged, in part, as to all defendants:
The acts and omissions of DEFENDANTS, were extreme and outrageous, and would be so seen and would shock the conscience of a reasonable person.
The conduct of DEFENDANTS was willful, malicious, oppressive, extreme and outrageous and/or reckless, and was of such a nature that punitive damages should be imposed in an amount commensurate with the wrongful acts alleged herein.
This censorship and removal caused considerable pain, emotional distress, potential economic loss, deprivation of an already established public forum, and other harm to PLAINTIFFS in an amount to be proved at trial…(emphasis added)
A number of “facts” provided in the complaint were inaccurate or patently false but will not be discussed here; they have been challenged and refuted many times in the past.
The complaint essentially resulted in the USDC addressing two separate issues, defamation, slander, harassment and libel as to Langberg and Woods, as a “Heckler’s veto” regarding the State’s actions, and the State of Washington’s (Sacks, Church, Inslee), right to remove Peltier’s paintings for just cause.
Peltier Loss; Langberg/Woods
On June 8, 2017 a Joint Motion to Dismiss All Claims against Langberg and Woods was submitted, and in part, contained the following:
…are absolutely immune from suit because they were engaged in protected public participation.
It is also clear that the subject of their communications pertained to a matter of concern to the L&I and the State of Washington.
The issue presented was whether a state agency like L&I found it favorable to exhibit artwork of a convicted double-murderer of civil servants. The L&I headquarters building, located in Tumwater, Washington, is a publicly funded and supported facility. The exhibition of Mr. Peltier’s art in a government owned building was viewed by them as a governmental endorsement and glorification of a convict found guilty of killing (assassination-style) two FBI Agents in the line of duty.
Washington protects individuals who communicate with its agencies and officials on matters reasonably of concern to the agency. RCW 4.24.510. The scope of the protection is as follows:
A person who communicates a complaint or information to any branch or agency of federal, state, or local government, …is immune from civil liability for claims based upon the communication to the agency or organization regarding any matter reasonably of concern to that agency or organization.
This anti-SLAPP statute, “grants immunity from civil liability for those who complain to their government regarding issues of public interest or social significance.” (Citing Baily v. State.) (SLAPP is a contraction for; Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation)
On June 26, 2017 Peltier submitted Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant Langberg and Woods’ 12(b)(6) and Anti-SLAPP Motion.
The twenty-three page Motion at its core essentially claimed that the letters sent to the State were defamatoryand that the anti-SLAPP statue cannot be used as a shield for libel.
There are a number of inaccurate claims made in the Motion that will not be addressed here but have been previously reviewed and refuted in great detail based on court records and Peltier’s public statements. (Fn. 4)
On July 25, 2017 USDC Judge Ronald B. Leighton dismissed Peltier’s suit stating, in part:
The letters Woods and Langberg wrote to Sacks and Inslee regarded a matter of public concern to the State and to the L&I department specifically. Each communicated his displeasure with L&I’s public display of Peltier’s artwork, as it seemed to condone his murderous past. How the public receives a state-sanctioned public display is a matter of reasonably of concern to the State and to its agency housing the display. In fact, the public’s reaction concerned the State and L&I so much that L&I removed Peltier’s work for overshadowing the State’s American Indian Heritage Month Celebration.
Under the anti-SLAPP statute, Woods and Langberg are immune from suit for these communications, which regarded L&I’s public display of Peltier’s paintings. Peltier’s claims against Woods and Langberg are therefore DISMISSED with prejudice** under RCW 4.24.510.
(The Washington anti-SLAPP statute provides for the reimbursement of expenses and attorney’s fees and statutory damages of ten thousand dollars.)
Accordingly, Woods’ and langberg’s Motion to Dismiss [Dkt. #15] is GRANTED, and Peltier’s claims against them are DISMISSED with prejudice. They may file a motion describing the amount of expenses and fees they seek within 14 days. Their request for statutory damages is DENIED.
On September 11, 2017 Peltier filed a motion, Plaintiffs’ Response to Defendant Langberg and Woods’ Fee Petitions, which stated in part:
To provide a glimpse of Leonard Peltier’s financial situation and his lack of ability to earn an income: He has been in federal prison for the last four decades, without ability to work for a fair—or even minimum—wage. He is 72, almost 73, years old and currently recovering from triple bypass surgery. He is serving two life sentences, and has had every attempt at parole and clemency denied to this date. He will never earn a fair wage, and any amount of money that he could potentially earn would be mere dollars a month—an amount vastly below Washington’s wage garnishment statute.
Plaintiff Chauncey Peltier lives off of Social Security Disability benefits, and receives only $1,350 a month to cover basic living expenses.
For all the reasons stated above, Plaintiffs Leonard and Chauncey Peltier ask that this Court deny Defendants Woods and Langberg’ Motions/petitions for Attorneys’ fees and costs.
On October 12, 2017, Judge Leighton responded with an Order on Motion for Attorneys’ Fees:
The fees requested are reasonable and they are awarded. The Motions for attorneys’ fees are GRANTED and the clerk shall enter a judgment in the defendants’ favor reflecting the requested fees.
Peltier Appeals to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
On November 21, 2017 Peltier filed Plaintiffs’ Notice of Appeal of Dismissal and Judgment as to Defendants Langberg and Woods, which stated:
Pursuant to FRAP 3 and 4 Plaintiffs LEONARD and CHAUNCEY PELTIER HERBY APPEAL AS A MATTER OF RIGHT THE JUDGEMENT DISMISSING THE ACTION AND ASSESSING ATTORNEYS FEES AND COSTS AS TO Defendants LARRY LANGBERG AND EDWARD WOODS in this matter.
The Office of the Clerk for the Ninth Circuit acknowledged Peltier’s notice of appeal on November 28, 2017 along with a Time Schedule Order that included a Mediation Questionnaire.
What followed was a letter from the Chief Circuit Judge providing details regarding the Court of Appeals mediation program, which stated in part:
I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to the Court’s mediation program. The Court offers you and your clients professional mediation services, at no cost, to help resolve disputes quickly and efficiently and to explore the development of more satisfactory results than can be achieved from continued litigation.
What then followed was a period of discussion and debate amongst the parties/attorneys resulting in a Release and Settlement Agreement.
Filed by the clerk of courts on April 2, 2018 was the following:
Appellant has settled and fully released his claims as to Edward Woods and Larry Langberg (“settling defendants”). His claims against the “other defendants” appear to remain pending.
(The “other defendants” referred to were Washington State officials, Sacks, Church and Inslee.)
On May 3, 2018 Circuit Mediator Chris Goetz filed with the court, in part, the following:
Pursuant to the court’s April 2, 2018, order, this appeal is deemed dismissed voluntarily, Fed. R. App. P. 42(b).
Dismissal is “with prejudice” with respect to the “settling defendants.”
Release and Settlement Agreement
Leonard & Chauncey Peltier—Edward Woods, Larry Langberg
The Release and Settlement Agreement, a clean-slate release, with no non-disclosure clause, was signed by Chauncey Peltier on March 9, 2018 and Leonard Peltier on July 28, 2018. The Peltiers’ were relieved from having to pay the attorney-fees judgment.
Peltier prevails in District Court
On July 16, 2018 USDC Judge Leighton filed an Order on Motion for Summary Judgment after reviewing arguments from Peltier and Washington State regarding the removal of Peltier’s paintings from L&I.
Judge Leighton dismissed, with prejudice, several of Peltier’s claims:
That the State defendants, Sacks, Church and Inslee acted in an official capacity; that they did not act with Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress against Peltier; that they were not negligent in their actions (Peltiers provide no evidence to support a negligence claim other than the conclusory allegation that Defendants “trampled on their duty of reasonable care and caused direct and foreseeable harm.”); Peltier will “accept a finding of violation and an order to rehang the paintings.” However, according to the Court; The Peltiers cite no authority imposing a mandatory injunction to remedy a state constitutional violation, and they do not articulate why a constitutional cause of action is more appropriate than a breach of contract cause of action.
Defendants Motion for Summary Judgment [Dkt. 42] is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiffs’ fifth and fourteenth amendment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, and Washington constitutional claims. The motion is GRANTED with respect to Plaintiffs’ ¶ 1983 claim against Defendant Jay Inslee, and against all Defendants in their “official capacities.”
However, Judge Leighton ruled in Peltier’s favor on his first amendment claim:
Plaintiff has raised a genuine issue of fact as to whether removing his paintings violated his first amendment rights, and Defendants are not entitled to qualified immunity.
The order previously stated that: …in the public forum it designated, L&I needed a compelling government interest to remove Peltier’s paintings.
* * *
It would appear that the State may have several options:
Although not likely, the State could appeal this decision to the Ninth Circuit.
The State could provide Peltier with the two weeks to display his paintings at L&I. Although, there is no authority to impose such a mandatory injunction.
The State could move ahead with a trial. Again, although not likely.
The State could offer Peltier a monetary settlement to not pursue any further action.
* * *
When Peltier is criticized or challenged, by relying on court records and public statements—in other words exercising a fundamental first amendment right to confront Peltier in the public forum, Peltier responds as the quintessential victim with claims that criticism of him is a vendetta aimed to discredit, harass and defame him.
As an obvious metaphor Peltier can be likened to an overripe onion where each layer of myth and folklore shades what came before. But peal away each successive layer until they are all removed and what is left is nothing. Nothing but a brutal convicted double-murderer; so said the jury and every court reviewing his conviction and sentence.
Peltier speaks of innocence but he and his followers who subscribe to that notion have short or very selective memories. A truly innocent person would have no difficulty recounting the events at Pine Ridge. The details could be recited with precision but instead have changed over the years while adding self-incriminating public statements; statements taken within the context of where he was that day only reinforces his guilt.
Peltier and Peltierites hope others will ignore or forget Peltier’s only real alibi, the years-long-lie that was memorialized in books (not his own though), televised media interviews and even from his own lips on film. “This story is true,” he told everyone, that someone they knew, Mr. X in the infamous red pickup, killed the agents. The lie of the alibi was made public by one of the AIM participants that fateful day and later corroborated by a Peltier attorney.
Since Peltier stood by such a blatant lie for so many years, why should anyone believe his claims of innocence?
“In the Spirit of Coler and Williams”
*Over the years it has been well established that any communication from the various Peltier committees are authored or approved by Peltier himself. Thus, public announcements from the ILPDC are credited directly back to Peltier.
** with prejudice: A dismissal with prejudice is dismissal of a case on merits after adjudication. The plaintiff is barred from bringing an action on the same claim. Dismissal with prejudice is a final judgment and the case becomes res judicata (a matter already judged) on the claims that were or could have been brought in it.
1) Letter to Governor Inslee: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2015/11/peltier-dear-governor-inslee.html
2) Blog re L&I letter: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2015/11/peltier-paintings-removed-part-2.html
Follow-up re removal of paintings: http://wwwnoparolepeltiercom-justice.blogspot.com/2015/11/peltier-paintings-removed-peltier.html
3) Addressing just one of those issues that is now a matter of public federal court record, Peltier states, and has erroneously claimed in the past that “…Woods…a retired FBI agent…since his retirement (first under paid contract with the FBI)…” This claim “first under paid contract with the FBI” is patently false. It is submitted to federal court without factual basis and is in fact, a lie.4) By direct reference in several pages in this Motion, claims of humanitarian and charitable activities are taken directly from Peltier’s website. Many of these claims are overstated, inaccurate, some unprovable or unsupported by actual documentation or scrutiny.