A Superior Court judge has tentatively ruled that photographer Jim Steins may proceed with his lawsuit against four members of the Sawdust Art Festival and the festival corporation over his expulsion from the festival, but the Sawdust will have another chance to convince the judge otherwise.
The ruling, which has not been made final, declines the request of Sawdust attorney Michael Dawe to have the lawsuit dismissed because the festival members are unpaid volunteers and because it illegally violates their 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech and is a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation).
The brief ruling posted on the Orange County Courts website states that the SLAPP issue does not apply because the Sawdust “Festival board is not an official proceeding authorized by law.”
In an Oct. 16 hearing, Judge Franz E. Miller set Nov. 20 for a further hearing on the issue, Dawe said.
“The tentative ruling was against us, but the judge is rethinking his position and giving us an opportunity to argue again,” Dawe said. “We got him thinking.”
Steins is seeking more than $1.6 million in damages and reinstatement in the summer festival.