Citing first amendment protection, a New Orleans judge recently threw out charges of defamation, libel, and unfair business practices leveled against novelist Anne (Interview With a Vampire) Rice last February by Al Copeland, former owner of Popeyes and Churchs. The flap, as we reported at the time ("Ad-versity") began with Rice buying a full-page ad in the Times-Picayune lambasting Copeland's new Straya California Creole Grand Cafe. Calling it an architectural "monstrosity" with less dignity than "the humblest flophouse," Rice later announced plans to open a restaurant of her own six blocks from Copeland's.
Copeland retaliated with an ad defending his multi-million dollar renovation of the vacant auto dealership, and the war of words quickly escalated into a public spitting match, ultimately landing the two in court, where a judge ruled that Rice's biting criticisms were constitutionally protected. In a formal response to the ruling, Copeland says he "knew all along it was a difficult case to win because of the First Amendment," and that although he sincerely believes Rice's actions were wrong, he agrees to "abide by what the court decided." At this point, he doesn't plan to appeal.