SLAPP civil suits typically concern reputational injuries associated with public petitioning or exercising the freedom of speech. As reported by California’s Coast News Group, the Golden State’s 1992 anti-SLAPP law protects against meritless lawsuits and costly litigation. If you or your business received notice of a SLAPP lawsuit, you may ask the court to dismiss it within 30 days through an anti-SLAPP motion.
The Marin County Bar Association notes that an anti-SLAPP motion requires showing how the plaintiff’s lawsuit impairs a defendant’s constitutional right to free speech. A defendant may assert, for example, that the alleged harmful speech or petitioning concerns a public issue that warrants its continuance.
Grounds for dismissals
When filing an anti-SLAPP motion, defendants must show how the alleged harmful speech related to a category that serves as grounds for dismissal. As noted on the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press website, potential anti-SLAP dismissal categories include statements that:
- Came about in a public forum or place open for discussions of public interest issues
- Related to conduct meant to further exercise petitioning or freedom of speech rights in relation to an issue of public interest
- Arose during judicial, executive or legislative proceedings
- Reflect concerned issues related to a governmental body’s consideration
Exemptions from litigation
To prevent abuse, California’s anti-SLAPP statute protects commercial speech or legal actions filed for the benefit of the general public. The law also exempts nonprofit organizations that receive at least 50% of their funding from the government. The statute may also exempt news publishers and individuals from gathering or processing information for communicating with the public.
California’s anti-SLAPP law could prevent plaintiffs from filing costly defamation suits without ample evidence of injury. If the court grants an anti-SLAPP dismissal, it may also impose the defendant’s costs and legal fees on the plaintiff.