As an observer of Meade products and fortunes over the last 20 or so years, I think it has taken more than just one bad run to bring them down, I think it has been a long term process, probably the result of a company driven by stockholders and the marketing department rather than savvy amateur astronomers. Hopefully that will change with the prospect of Scott Roberts guiding Meade's future.
Very good, interesting post. A couple of quibbles, natch.
The "ACF scopes" you speak of was the RCX 400 series.
As for commercial Dobs? Not really. Meade was there at the same time, actually even a little before Orion, with their StarFinder Dobs. At any rate, both Orion's original Dobsonians and the StarFinders owe more to Jim Braginton's Red Tube Coulter Odysseys than anything else. To this day, import Dobs follow Jim's basic design--with the good and bad inherent in that. Oh, Orion's original Dobs (the "Explorers" I believe they were called) were not made by GSO but by an American vendor.
Meade? I date the beginning of the decline to about 2006 and the RCX. It was an advance, and I was VERY impressed by the single scope I got to use, the 10-inch at a Cherry Springs Star Party. But it was not _quite_ there. I'm not sure the lawsuit had that huge an effect--if I recall, Meade's opponents were only awarded 1$. What killed the RCX was problems out of the box, especially with the focus/collimation system.