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Tuesday, March 12, 2002

SLAPP-ing Back Doc's blogging today from SXSW about SLAPP suits and other fauna, including fake corporate blogs - "Like your dad trying to buy pot," as an audience member pithily put it. As for SLAPP litigation - "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" - California, Utah, Oregon and New Mexico all have enacted "Anti-SLAPP" statutes intended to protect citizens from lawsuits resulting from any act in furtherance of constitutional rights of petition or free speech. As the California legislature noted when enacting its Anti-SLAPP provision (scroll down to CCP Section 425.16), "There has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition . . . The Legislature finds and declares that it is in the public interest to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance, and that this participation should not be chilled through abuse of the judicial process. To this end, this section shall be construed broadly." Anti-SLAPP statutes protect those who engage in protected activities, which include (in CA) "any written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest," and other conduct that furthers the rights of speech and petition "in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest." Federal courts also will enforce state anti-SLAPP laws where applicable, and in general protect activities under the First Amendment. The California Anti-SLAPP Project, and obviously the EFF, are excellent resources for those who may find themselves on the wrong end of SLAPP litigation.
Current Anti-SLAPP Issues In California The California Supreme Court has at least two Anti-SLAPP cases pending. In Wilson v. Parker, Covert & Chidester, 87 Cal.App.4th 1337 (2001), review granted 6/20/01 (S097444), the Court will consider whether a defendant's failure to obtain a dismissal under the Anti-SLAPP statute also helps shield the plaintiff from liability for malicious prosecution. And, in Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, 85 Cal.App.4th 654 (2001), review granted 4/11/01 (S094877), the Court will decide whether a SLAPP defendant must show the lawsuit was brought with the intent to chill the defendant's exercise of free speech or petition, in order to obtain a dismissal. In other words, in Equilon the Court will address whether suits should be dismissed if they have a chilling effect - regardless of what the defendant may be able to show about the plaintiff's intent. Your tax dollars at work, Doc. Blog on!

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