The move came after Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon in 2017 granted WCWC’s anti-SLAPP motion, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, thereby dismissing Roseburg’s lawsuit against the “Weed 9” and awarding the group their attorney fees. Roseburg appealed that decision, but decided last month to drop its appeal.

In what Water for Citizens of Weed, California is calling “a victory for free speech,” Roseburg Forest Products last month dropped an appeal of a lawsuit against the group and nine members of the Weed community.

The move came after Siskiyou County Superior Court Judge Karen Dixon in 2017 granted WCWC’s anti-SLAPP motion, or Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, thereby dismissing Roseburg’s lawsuit against the “Weed 9” and awarding the group their attorney fees. Roseburg appealed that decision, but decided last month to drop its appeal.

“From the beginning, the purpose of this litigation was to affirm and uphold Roseburg’s clearly established ownership of our Beaughan Springs water rights and to eliminate the challenges to those water rights,” said Rebecca Taylor, Roseburg’s Corporate Communications Director. “Roseburg achieved that aim in August 2019 when the City of Weed acknowledged in a settlement that it has no ownership interest in the water and agreed to end all claims to the water rights. With the ownership issue now clarified before the courts, this case has come to an end for Roseburg.”

Weed’s city council is now seeking to acquire water rights from Roseburg through eminent domain proceedings, said city attorney Robert Winston.

Eminent domain is a law that gives a government the right to take private property and convert it for public use. The Fifth Amendment provides that governments may only enact this power if they provide fair compensation to land owners.

Beaughan Spring has provided the Weed community with clean water for its entire 110-year existence, WCWC said in a press release.

“Whereas the eminent domain process may secure the contested water rights for the city, it will be at considerable expense to the public,” said WCWC in a recent press release.

WCWC calls SLAPP lawsuits a “bullying tactic used by corporations and other entities to silence free speech, in which the corporation brings a case for the purpose of dragging its critics through expensive, time-consuming, and psychologically burdensome litigation.” And although the group is breathing a sigh of relief, they say Roseburg bullied the city into settling its lawsuit against the company and acknowledging it has no ownership of water from Beaughan Springs.

Bruce Shoemaker, one of the “Weed 9,” said the decision was due to Roseburg’s financial resources and Weed’s inability to continue to bankroll court proceedings, which were close to $600,000, according to WCWC.

As part of August’s stipulated judgement, Roseburg agreed to pay the city $50,000 towards attorneys’ fees and costs incurred by the matter. Both the city and Roseburg waived the right to recover any additional fees or costs.

“It is simply wrong for Roseburg to be allowed to use legal bullying to get its way by intimidating and trying to bankrupt our community,” Shoemaker said.