The ruling whether or not to dismiss a lawsuit filed against a Cheyenne man by the Wyoming Lottery Corporation for allegedly using defamatory statements to undermine the relationship between it and national lottery organizations will be decided soon, according to state judge, Thomas Campbell.
On Monday, lawyers representing Cheyenne resident, Edward Atchison, and the lottery corporation, presented their arguments to Judge Campbell. In February, the Wyoming Lottery Corporation sued Mr. Atchison for alleged defamatory comments made to various national lottery organizations regarding the corporation’s lack of commitment to problem gambling.
Atchison’s lawyer, Tim Kingston, called the corporations civil litigation a “SLAPP suit,” (strategic lawsuit against public participation) which is a legal tactic sometimes employed to discourage public criticism. According to Kingston, suing a citizen raises constitutional issues, considering the corporation is a part of the state government. He added that, “The corporation is obviously unhappy with any criticism against it by anyone, including Mr. Atchison.” The lawsuit seeks an injunction against Atchison. In 2013 the corporation was authorized by the Wyoming Legislature and lottery tickets were available for purchase last fall.
The Wyoming Council on Problem Gambling, a Wyoming Domestic Non-Profit Corporation based out of Beulah, WY, lists Atchison as its director and Virginia Shoffstall its president/director. Atchison has sent written appeals to Wyoming newspapers as well as national groups regarding the lottery’s lack of action pertaining to gambling addiction.
According to the corporation, it must be in good standing with various organizations such as the Multi-State Lottery Association and the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries in order to sell tickets like Powerball and Mega Millions. They contend that by telling these entities that they are not operating in accordance with its statutory mandates, Atchison is sabotaging those efforts.
Judge Campbell was told by Kingston that the corporation has not disclosed proof of any comments made by his client that are defamatory, while attorney for the corporation, Matthew D. Kaufman, claims that Hutchison’s intentional interference and improper criticism of his client are indeed defamatory, and urged the judge not to dismiss the suit.
According to Kaufman, dismissal of the lawsuit would be a drastic remedy, and if necessary, revisions to the suit against Atchison would be made.