Van Liew v. StansfieldAnnotate this Case
Stansfield sought a harassment prevention order against Van Liew alleging four incidents of harassment. The alleged harassment concerned a local municipal election and general issues of local public concern. The District Court judge denied the request. Van Liew then filed this action against Stansfield in the district court, asserting claims for abuse of process and malicious prosecution. Stansfield filed a special motion to dismiss pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 238, 59H. The District Court judge allowed the special motion after a hearing. Van Liew appealed to the Appellate Division of the District Court Department. The Appellate Division vacated the order of dismissal, concluding that Van Liew had presented sufficient evidence to show that Stansfield lacked any reasonable factual support for her petitioning activity. Stansfield filed an appeal in the Appeals Court from the decision and order of the Appellate Division. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) Stansfield’s appeal was properly filed in the Appeals Court; and (2) with one possible exception, the speech at issue in this case did not qualify as either “fighting words” or “true threats,” and therefore, no civil harassment prevention order should have issued.