California SLAPP Law
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California SLAPP Law
California anti-SLAPP motions and strategies, presented by Aaron Morris, Orange County defamation and free speech attorney .
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Bill Cosby to Give New Deposition in Janice Dickinson's Defamation Lawsuit

Bill Cosby to Give New Deposition in Janice Dickinson's Defamation Lawsuit | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

Bill Cosby will give a new deposition in the defamation case from Janice Dickinson over her allegations of sexual assault.


The former supermodel told Entertainment Tonight in November 2014 the comedian drugged her into unconsciousness and raped her. Cosby's former attorney Martin Singer responded in a statement to the media calling Dickinson’s story “an outrageous defamatory lie" and "completely fabricated."


In a hearing Monday, judge Debre K. Weintraub ordered Dickinson will depose Cosby and Singer by Nov. 25 on whether they knew if her allegations were true before denying them to the press. The testimony will follow Cosby's recent deposition in Judy Huth's lawsuit (which will be sealed until a Dec. 22 hearing in which the sides will argue if the testimony should be public).


Aaron Morris's insight:

Recent developments in one of the actions against Bill Cosby illustrate the availability of limited discovery after an anti-SLAPP motion has been filed, and how defamation claims are sometimes used to resurrect actions that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitation.


Joining the bandwagon of Cosby accusers (or perhaps she was the first) Janice Dickinson stated that she was drugged and raped by Cosby many years ago. Any action for that alleged assault would be far past the statute of limitations, but when Cosby denied the allegations, Dickinson was then free to sue for defamation, claiming that by denying that the rape had occurred, Cosby was in essence calling her a liar.


This is a common tactic, and puts an accused party in a precarious position. They can remain silent, in which case everyone will think and the press will report that they must be guilty since they are not denying the charges, or they can speak up and deny the charges, in which case they face a defamation action. Cosby chose to claim innocence, and the defamation suit followed.


Cosby responded with an anti-SLAPP motion.


Celebrities enjoy a benefit that the rest of us plebes don't, and that is that anything said about them is deemed to be a matter of public interest, triggering the anti-SLAPP statute. The downside is that said celebrities are deemed to be public figures, with the opportunity to respond to criticism by simply calling a press conference. To claim defamation, they must show that the purportedly defamatory statements were made with malice. Since Dickinson is also a celebrity, she must therefore show that when Cosby called her a liar, he did so with malice.


One way to prove malice is to show that the person making the comment knew it wasn't true. And thus we go full circle. Dickinson says Cosby raped her, Cosby says he didn't, so Dickinson says that's proof of malice because he raped her and knows it.


When an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, the plaintiff can request leave to conduct discovery, and here Dickinson requested leave to take Cosby's deposition, to prove the malice. It's a long shot, because the only way Cosby's testimony would prove malice is if he admits that he raped Dickinson and knew he had raped her when he denied the claim. (Or, I suppose, Cosby could get befuddled and say he doesn't remember.) 

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It's Never Too Late to File an Anti-SLAPP Motion

It's Never Too Late to File an Anti-SLAPP Motion | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Anti-SLAPP attorney Aaron Morris discusses why it is never too late to file an anti-SLAPP motion.
Aaron Morris's insight:

In Episode 15 of the California SLAPP Law Podcast, we discuss (1) The perils of overreaching in your anti-SLAPP motions. Making iffy challenges to causes of action can come back to bite you, even if you win, and (2) Why you should NEVER assume it’s too late to bring an anti-SLAPP motion , and some strategies to keep in mind when you do bring an anti-SLAPP motion late in the game.
 

We also discuss the case of Chitsazzadeh v. Kramer & Kaslow (2011) 199 Cal.App.4th 676, which held [spoiler alert] that no leave is required to file a late anti-SLAPP motion.
 

We examine two cases that discuss whether it is an abuse of discretion to refuse to consider a late anti-SLAPP motion. Du Charme v. International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (2003) 110 Cal.App.4th 107 held that it is never an abuse of discretion for a trial court to refuse to consider a late-filed anti-SLAPP motion, regardless of the merits, and Platypus Wear, Inc. v. Goldberg (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 772, which held that it can be an abuse of discretion to allow an anti-SLAPP motion to be brought too late in the action.
 

(But the title says it’s never too late to file an anti-SLAPP motion. How can you reconcile that with the holding ofPlatypus? Listen to Episode 15 to find out!)

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Singer/actress Ronee Blakley must pay $200K to former lover - MyNewsLA.com

Singer/actress Ronee Blakley must pay $200K to former lover - MyNewsLA.com | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

"A judge ordered singer/actress Ronee Sue Blakley to pay more than $200,000 in attorneys’ fees to her former lover, who won dismissal earlier this year of a lawsuit alleging he based the character of an abusive mother on his ex-flame when penning the screenplay for the  film “What Maisie Knew.”


Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rafael Ongkeko granted $209,670 to writer Carroll Cartwright on June 5, the same day he heard arguments on the motion for attorneys’ fees brought by Cartwright’s attorneys. He also ordered Blakley to pay Cartwright an additional $1,840 in associated legal costs."

Aaron Morris's insight:

At least three times a week, I end a telephone conversation with the following statement, after concluding that the legal action the caller is proposing would be met with an anti-SLAPP motion:


"I'm sure you can find any number of attorneys who will happily take your money to pursue this action, but I think you will be met with a successful anti-SLAPP motion if you move forward. If you do find an attorney willing to take this case, please ask them how they will deal with the anti-SLAPP motion. If they can't provide a good answer, don't pursue the case."


This was one of those cases. Ronee Sue Blakley found an attorney to pursue the case, it was met with an anti-SLAPP motion, and Blakley is now paying the price.


Consider the theory of this case. Blakley dated a guy for five years way back in the 80s, and 35 years later when said boyfriend wrote a screenplay about a fictional character, Blakley claimed the fictional character was based on her, and that the characterization was defamatory.


I never understand this reasoning. I recently received a call from a woman who was convinced that a person portrayed as an incompetent parent on a popular sitcom was based on her. (She knew one of the writers, and felt that he was using her as a model.) But if she wasn't an incompetent parent, then why would she think that other people would assume this incompetent parent was her? Even if the character was based on the caller, that is irrelevant unless the people watching the sitcom would understand the connection.


The court in the Blakley case came to the same conclusion. The judge found that a reasonable viewer of the movie would not see any similarities between Blakley and the character.


After granting the anti-SLAPP motion, the court awarded defendant $209,670 in attorney fees, representing 476 hours of attorney time. A high price to pay to take a run at such a thin claim.

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Judge resigns amid allegations she retaliated after rebuffed Facebook request, exhibited paranoia

Judge resigns amid allegations she retaliated after rebuffed Facebook request, exhibited paranoia | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
A Florida judge has resigned before the resolution of ethics charges alleging she “repeatedly expressed paranoia” and exhibited “inexplicable” and “disruptive” behavior.

Judge Linda Schoonover of the Seminole-Brevard circuit court plans to retire Aug. 31,
Aaron Morris's insight:

The fascinating part of this tragic story is the Facebook incident.


The judge was presiding over a divorce action, and sent a Facebook friend request to the wife. The wife, understandably concerned that she would get a friend request from the judge on her case, asked her attorney what she should do. Her attorney advised her to ignore the friend request.


The judge was not pleased. She allegedly retaliated against the wife by ordering a very unfavorable, and inexplicable, division of the marital assets.


I'm reminded of that scene from Fatal Attraction, where the character played by Glenn Close says, "I will NOT be ignored," before later boiling the bunny.


Be careful who you fail to friend.

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SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case

SCOCA grants review in pivotal anti-SLAPP case | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
On May 13, 2015, the California Supreme Court granted review in Baral v. Schnitt to resolve the divide among lower courts regarding whether anti-SLAPP motions can strike so-called “mixed” causes of action.
Aaron Morris's insight:

This is a very important case in the anti-SLAPP world, and the Supreme Court may finally clear up the competing decisions as regards mixed causes of action.


Here is how these causes of action typically arise. A homeowner is having a dispute with a neighbor and sues for harassment and infliction of emotional distress, alleging that the neighbor has made false police reports, called child protective services, and has left dog poo on his lawn.


Of those allegations, two are protected activities -- calling the police and child protective services. The third, involving the dog poo, is not. So if the neighbor brings an anti-SLAPP motion, how should the court deal with these mixed causes of action?


Some courts have held that the entire claim falls under the anti-SLAPP motion, while others have held that the protected activity allegations should be stricken. Others still have held that the claim survives. Hopefully, this review by the California Supreme Court will finally resolve the issue.

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Washington Supreme Court Shoots Down Unconstitutional Anti-SLAPP Statute

Washington Supreme Court Shoots Down Unconstitutional Anti-SLAPP Statute | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Washington Supreme Court Shoots Down Unconstitutional Anti-SLAPP Statute.
Aaron Morris's insight:

The Washington legislature has learned that even a good idea can be taken too far.


When Washington decided to enact an anti-SLAPP statute (it was greatly revised in 2010), it certainly had many states’ examples to choose from. Some states, feeling that anti-SLAPP protections are so essential, have added protections that exceed those of California’s anti-SLAPP statute. California was the first state to pass an anti-SLAPP statute, and many states have the based their laws on California’s tested formulation, while others have tinkered.


In the case of Washington, the legislature decided to up the ante by requiring a plaintiff to show by clear and convincing evidence that their case has merit. Even a cursory review of this heightened standard should have made clear that such a requirement is impermissible.

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Libel Lawsuit against NYTimes for Slavery 'Not So Bad' Comments Dismissed

Libel Lawsuit against NYTimes for Slavery 'Not So Bad' Comments Dismissed | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
The New York Times won't be sued for libel over its article quoting a Loyola professor saying slavery was "not so bad," the Columbia Journalism Review reported.

The professor, Walter Block, said the Times took his comments "out of context" and suggested he "is a racist, a supporter of slavery, and/or against the Civil Rights Act ... solely because of racial prejudices," the judge's ruling stated.
Aaron Morris's insight:

This is another example of how, in a defamation action, the speaker gets to define his own words.


It sometimes comes up in my practice that I get a call from a potential client who wants to sue for defamation because someone referred to him as a "stalker". The caller has looked up the criminal code section that defines "stalker", and argues that he does not meet the elements, making the accusation false.


That analysis would only be true if the alleged defamer said or wrote, "Joe is a stalker as defined by the criminal code." But if the defamer merely stated, "Joe is a stalker," then what he meant by that is crucial. Stated another way, Joe does not get to define the term used by the defamer, unless that definition is reasonable.


This case presented that issue, with an additional layer. Here, a college professor was talking about slavery, and from a specific context, said it was "not so bad." The reporter from the New York Times who reported on the comment, said that the professor had stated that slavery was "not so bad", but really didn't provide the context.


The professor sued for defamation, stating the newspaper article took him out of context; that he didn't really mean to say that slavery was not so bad.


But here's the thing, Professor. We don't have to agree with your interpretation. I get that in your mind, you were attempting to make the point that from an external viewpoint, slaves were fed and clothed, and even got to sing in the fields as you put it, in order to make the point that what made slavery so horrific was its involuntary versus voluntary nature. But the author is free to decide that even in that context, your comment exhibits extreme insensitivity.


The NYT brought an anti-SLAPP motion on that basis, and the trial judge agreed and dismissed the action. "The Court finds that the references made to Block are not capable of defamatory meaning, nor do they place him in a false light," the judge wrote.



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Governor signs anti-SLAPP bill, protecting calls to police from retaliation

Governor signs anti-SLAPP bill, protecting calls to police from retaliation | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
A dispute over a campaign sign in 2010 in rural Washington County was the impetus for a new law that will protect a person who calls the police from being sued.
Aaron Morris's insight:

Sometimes the law seems so self-evident, until you see a case in another state that does not afford the same protections as California.

I get innumerable calls from potential clients wanting to sue for what they contend were false police reports. In California, calls to the police are protected speech, even if false. Apparently not so in Minnesota, and this case illustrates why it is a really bad idea to allow a criminally charged defendant to use civil court as a means to badger his accusers. At least Minnesota has seen the error of its ways and is amending the anti-SLAPP law.

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C.A. Upholds Ruling in Suit by Customer Claiming False Arrest

C.A. Upholds Ruling in Suit by Customer Claiming False Arrest | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

A finding of probable cause at a preliminary hearing bars the defendant from subsequently claiming that he was prosecuted without probable cause, despite his claim the finding was based on false testimony, the Court of Appeal for this district ruled yesterday.

Aaron Morris's insight:

Great case, discussing the elements of malicious prosecution.


I get many calls from clients wanting to sue for defamation and/or malicious prosecution after they are found not guilty of a criminal charge (or if the District Attorney decides not to pursue the case). As this case makes clear, a finding of probable cause at a preliminary hearing bars the defendant from subsequently claiming that he was prosecuted without probable cause, despite his claim the finding was based on false testimony.


The Court of Appeal ruled that case law has long held that a magistrate’s ruling at the preliminary hearing that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence to bind a defendant over for trial is preclusive on the issue of probable cause on a subsequent malicious prosecution claim.


The justice acknowledged on exception. There can still be a claim for malicious prosecution when the magistrate’s ruling is procured by false testimony, but the exception does not apply where the magistrate directly determined that the allegedly false witness was credible. “Accordingly, the magistrate’s probable cause determination, based on its credibility finding that Casasola testified truthfully about plaintiff’s threat, was sufficient to invoke collateral estoppel.”


It is a really tough burden to pursue a malicious prosecution action based on a criminal prosecution.


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Sony, CBS: Actress Can't Sue for Retaliation Because She Never Applied for Job

Sony, CBS: Actress Can't Sue for Retaliation Because She Never Applied for Job | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Former 'Young and the Restless' star Victoria Rowell claims she was refused reemployment after advocating for more African-Americans in soap operas.
Aaron Morris's insight:

Interesting case with employment law and anti-SLAPP issues.


The plaintiff, an actress, claimed she was retaliated against when she complained that there are not enough African-Americans in soap operas. The only problem is, she never asked for a job. I'm considering bringing an action against the NBA for favoring tall people, even though I've never tried out.


The case also includes anti-SLAPP issues, with the defendants managing to get the case transfered from New York, where the anti-SLAPP law does not cover free speech issues, to California where it does.

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'American Hustle' Producers Can't Nuke Defamation Lawsuit - Hollywood Reporter

'American Hustle' Producers Can't Nuke Defamation Lawsuit - Hollywood Reporter | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Paul Brodeur, a science writer who claims he was defamed by something Jennifer Lawrence said in David O. Russell's 2013 film American Hustle, has survived an attempt to knock out his $1 million lawsuit on First Amendment grounds.
Aaron Morris's insight:

This is such an entertaining and ridiculous lawsuit.


In the movie American Hustle, Jennifer Lawrence plays a character named Rosalyn. The movie is set in the 70s, when microwave ovens were still relatively new, and Rosalyn makes the statement that microwaves cook the nutrition out of food. When another character questions that claim, she holds up a magazine and responds, "I read it in an article by Paul Brodeur."


Paul Brodeur is a real person, and claims that the fictional statement from a fictional character hurts his reputation. During the 70s, Brodeur wrote about the dangers of microwave ovens, but he never stated that they take the nutrition out of food, and he therefore claims that the idea that he would have written this (fictional) article stating that food loses its nutrition when cooked in a microwave is akin to having Carl Sagan say that the sun revolves around the earth.


Brodeur should have been flattered that anyone remembered him, and laughed at the joke, but this is America, so he sued for a million dollars, claiming the statement was defamatory. The movie makers responded with an anti-SLAPP motion.


At the time, I gave the motion little chance of success, because I didn't think the movie makers would be able to meet the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis, and show that this was a matter of public interest. Apparently the judge agreed, and denied the motion.



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Courtney Love Fails to Get an Appeals Court to Dispense Defamation Lawsuit

Courtney Love Fails to Get an Appeals Court to Dispense Defamation Lawsuit | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
A California appeals court sees no evidence that Courtney Love's fame is on par with Marlon Brando's. As a result, the rock star will continue fighting a lawsuit from a fashion designer who claims being defamed by Love on social media and Howard Stern's radio show.
Dawn Simorangkir, a.k.a. the "Boudoir Queen," is the plaintiff who's fought Love on and off (and on) for the last six years.
Aaron Morris's insight:

I first reported on this case about six years ago, and the beat goes on.


A designer named Dawn Simorangkir, aka the "Boudoir Queen", managed to get on the bad side of Courtney Love, who took to Twitter to call Simorangkir a "thieving prostitute" and the like. Simorangkir sued for defamation, and that action ultimately settled for $430,000.


But Love was undeterred.


She again began talking trash about Simorangkir on various social media, and the designer again sued. This time Love sought to dispose of the action by way of an anti-SLAPP motion.


Will that work? Well, let's go through the analysis. To prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant must first establish that the matter falls under the anti-SLAPP statute, and that requires a showing that the protected speech in question involves a matter of public interest.


"No problem," said Love's attorneys, "we can rely on the Marlon Brando case, wherein his housekeeper claimed an invasion of privacy when a television show did a story on how she was named in Brando's will." In that case, the court found the housekeeper and the will were matters of public interest because Brando was such a huge celebrity. Following the reasoning of the Brando case, Love's attorneys argued that this was not a simple matter between two individuals with no public interest, but rather fell under the anti-SLAPP statute because Love's fame made it a matter of public interest.


But there was a problem. Judge Allan Goodman said, "I knew Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando was a friend of mine, and you, Ms. Love, are no Marlon Brando." Actually he didn't say that, but that was the essence of his holding. He simply found that Love's fame is not enough to make her controversies a matter of public interest.


The takeaway here is that the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis is still alive and well. So many controversies are deemed to be matters of public interest that some attorneys fail to focus sufficiently on that prong. But if the issue is between two individuals or limited to a small group, take a hard look at that prong.



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Anti-SLAPP motions must be taken in context

Anti-SLAPP motions must be taken in context | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Anti-SLAPP motions must be taken in context when deciding if subject to litigation privilege or right of redress.



Aaron Morris's insight:

I’ve decided to report in detail on this unpublished anti-SLAPP ruling, both because it is an interesting SLAPP case, illustrating some creative thinking, and because it gives an interesting peak behind the curtains regarding how real estate developers create additional revenue streams.


Attorneys unfamiliar with the anti-SLAPP statutes sometimes make the mistake of filing a cross-complaint, or amending a complaint, that includes causes of action that arise from the currently pending litigation itself. Here, after a successful motion for judgment on the pleadings by defendant, the plaintiff amended the complaint, and a single word in the allegations seemed to make reference to something that had occurred during the litigation.The defendant latched onto that word, and claimed that the amended complaint was a SLAPP since it amounted to suing for conduct during the litigation.


The takeaway, if you are disinclined to review the case in detail, is that while the plaintiff must be careful with the wording of the allegations, the defendant cannot be too technical. Allegations are, of course, taken in context.

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3 Ways to Bring an Anti-SLAPP Motion Against an Ambiguous Complaint

3 Ways to Bring an Anti-SLAPP Motion Against an Ambiguous Complaint | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Three Ways to Bring an Anti-SLAPP Motion Against an Ambiguous Complaint. Anti-SLAPP attorney Aaron Morris provides strategies to deal with a bad complaint.
Aaron Morris's insight:

In episode 12 of the California SLAPP Law Podcast, I provide three strategies for dealing with a poorly drafted complaint that is hiding a SLAPP.


Sometimes you just know that a SLAPP is hiding in the complaint, but the complaint is so ambiguous that the SLAPP allegations are unclear. What to do?


In this episode, I tell you how to file an anti-SLAPP motion against an ambiguous complaint, which sometimes involves first beating it into shape. I have three approaches, which I call Demurrer, Discovery and Damn the Torpedoes.

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Judge Dismisses Slander Lawsuit Filed By Gang Crackdown Defendants

Judge Dismisses Slander Lawsuit Filed By Gang Crackdown Defendants | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

Judge Thomas Anderle has dismissed a lawsuit filed against the City of Santa Barbara, police chief Cam Sanchez, and police spokesperson Sgt. Riley Harwood by 10 people who claim they were the victims of slander and emotional distress when they were named in an ongoing gang suppression operation and when their mugshots were displayed during a November 2013 press conference on the crackdown. The ruling also allows the city to recover its attorney’s fees.

Aaron Morris's insight:

Ouch. When this case was filed, I predicted it would end like this. When will attorneys learn?


In the case, the plaintiffs' mugshots were shown in conjunction with a "gang suppression operation". They took umbrage, claiming that while they had all indeed been arrested as part of the operation, they were not gang members. They claimed such an allegation caused all kinds of emotional distress.


Let's freeze right there. As I explain in excruciating detail at WhatIsDefamation.com, to a certain extent, the speaker of the alleged defamation gets to define their own terms. Defendants here may define gang member as "someone who gets arrested during a gang suppression operation".


But aside from this reality, it is not enough to show that the statements were false. Because this was a matter of public interest, the Plaintiffs had to show that the defendants acted with malice.


Counsel for Plaintiffs was seeking $1 million per client. He fell a little short. Instead, these Plaintiffs will get to split the cost of the defendants' attorney fees.

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Google takes down newspaper's positive story about an artist

Google takes down newspaper's positive story about an artist | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Editor calls it absurd 'right to be forgotten' ruling
Aaron Morris's insight:

European case law has created a questionable "right to be forgotten" and this is one of the strange results. 


Google had indexed a five-year-old article that spoke favorably of an artist, but was later compelled to take it down at the request of that artist. The original article contained an image of a painting by the artist, and he no longer liked that painting, and felt it might harm his reputation.

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Yelp asks California high court to slap down restaurateur’s suit over review filter | Thomson Reuters Blog

Yelp asks California high court to slap down restaurateur’s suit over review filter | Thomson Reuters Blog | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

Yelp’s statements to consumers about the accuracy of its review-filter software are protected speech, the website operator has told the California Supreme Court.


In an Aug. 28 petition for review, Yelp urges the high court to overturn a recent appeals court decision allowing restaurateur James Demetriades to proceed with his false-advertising suit against the site.  The company says the state’s anti-SLAPP statute protects Yelp’s statements about the review filter.


Aaron Morris's insight:

I discussed this case at length in the 10th episode of the California SLAPP Law Podcast. The tables have been turned on Yelp. After suing one law firm for alleged fake reviews, this plaintiff is suing Yelp for fake reviews about itself. Yelp claims that its reviews are trustworthy, despite all evidence to the contrary.


Nonetheless, it pursued an anti-SLAPP motion against this claim for false advertising, and lost. It is now appealing that loss to the California Supreme Court.

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Michael Mann DC Appeals Court brief lays out defamation case and seeks to ... - Climate Science Watch

In a brief filed today in the DC Court of Appeals as part of his defamation lawsuit against the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Michael Mann once again argued his case and requested that the Court proceed to adjudicate the merits of Defendants' appeal of the trial court's denial of their motion to dismiss. The stated intention of Dr. Mann's request is to expedite moving to trial on a case that has been long-delayed in procedural tangles.

Aaron Morris's insight:

This has been an interesting case to follow. It was falsely assumed by many that the suit would not survive an anti-SLAPP motion because it is based on a dispute over global warming, and that is a hotly-debated issue. However, the anti-SLAPP motion failed because the defamation arises from the claim that the research was conducted fraudulently. That is an allegation that can be proven true or false, and therefore is not opinion.

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Travolta and Yelp Anti-SLAPP Motions

Travolta and Yelp Anti-SLAPP Motions | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Travolta and Yelp Anti-SLAPP Motions. In this week's California SLAPP Law Podcast, we examine 2 anti-SLAPP motions and the rulings that came down this week.
Aaron Morris's insight:

In this week’s podcast, we look at two unsuccessful anti-SLAPP motions that were decided this week, and examine where the attorneys went wrong.


Yelp continues to get into mischief. In Episode 4 of the California SLAPP Law Podcast, we discussed the case of Yelp v. McMillan Law Group, wherein Yelp is suing a law firm, claiming that it posted fake reviews, and that Yelp was damaged as a result. McMillan Law Group filed an anti-SLAPP motion, and we are awaiting the results.


Now, in the case of Demetriades v. Yelp, the tables have been turned, and the plaintiff is essentially suing Yelp for its fake reviews about itself. Yelp tries to promote the notion that its reviews are filtered and trustworthy, despite all evidence to the contrary. Demetriades, who has had several bogus reviews written about his restaurant, didn’t try to sue Yelp for those bogus reviews, but instead sued Yelp for claiming that reviews on the site are trustworthy. Yelp brought an anti-SLAPP motion, which was DENIED.


We also examined Douglas Gotterba v. John Travota, where Travolta’s former pilot from the 80′s has decided to publish a tell-all book about Travolta, that apparently alleges a homosexual lifestyle. When Travolta threatened to sue, claiming Gotterba was subject to a confidentiality agreement, Gotterba did exactly what you are supposed to do, and filed a declaratory relief action.


Basically, Gotterba is simply asking a court to determine if he is in fact subject to a confidentiality agreement. If so, he will slunk away into the night. If not, then he will be free to publish the book. Great solution, right?


Not according to Travolta’s attorneys. they claimed that Gotterba’s action was really just an attempt to get Travolta’s attorneys to stop sending warning letters to publishers. Since pre-litigation letters are privileged, they brought an anti-SLAPP motion against the declaratory relief action.


The Court of Appeal ruled that the letters may have triggered the action, but they are not the basis of the action. Motion DENIED.

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More Exciting Anti-SLAPP Victories at Morris & Stone - California SLAPP Law

More Exciting Anti-SLAPP Victories at Morris & Stone - California SLAPP Law | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Two more anti-SLAPP victories. In one, filing an anti-SLAPP motion was enough to dispose of a case, and in another, we defeated a bogus discovery motion.
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The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read

The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it
Benghazi, Robin Williams, Islam, Twitter, and a convicted bomber from the 1970s came together in a court case against right-wing bloggers.
Aaron Morris's insight:

A very entertaining story about a guy who likes to sue, illustrating why a federal anti-SLAPP law might not be a bad idea.

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Dance Moms Lawyers Slam Kelly Hyland Lawsuit, File Motion to Dismiss - The Hollywood Gossip

Dance Moms Lawyers Slam Kelly Hyland Lawsuit, File Motion to Dismiss - The Hollywood Gossip | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

"If you watch Dance Moms online, you know Hyland is suing the show and its main star, Lee Miller, the dance studio shot-caller and show matriarch.


L.A. Superior Court Judge Ruth Kwan stated she was inclined to toss out Hyland’s claim that Miller defamed her in the aftermath of an episode last year.


Defense attorneys filed a motion to dismiss the case under California’s anti-SLAPP law protecting free speech. But attorneys representing Hyland argued otherwise.


They claim their clients were not properly compensated and that the contract between them and the series was unfairly slanted in favor of the production company.


Attorney Kelli Sager, on behalf of Collins, said Hyland was paid for every episode on which she appeared, and that simply, "is the deal she signed.”


“She’s just unhappy she was not on every week,” Sager said."



Read more <a href="http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com">celebrity gossip</a> at: http://www.thehollywoodgossip.com/2014/08/dance-moms-lawyers-slam-kelly-hyland-lawsuit-file-motion-to-dism/#ixzz3BwquhyAN
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Aaron Morris's insight:

I do get really tired of the the, "I didn't understand what I was signing" defense, which is the argument being made by Hyland in this case. For example, I have received a number of calls over the years from contestants on American Idol, wanting to sue because the show made them look foolish, after signing an agreement with the show that they would not sue for being made to look foolish.


Nonetheless, the case is interesting in the anti-SLAPP context because it is outside the normal analysis of protected speech. By that I mean, when I prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion, it is often because the speech was subject to, say, the litigation privilege. It is because of that privilege that the plaintiff cannot make the requisite showing that he, she or it is likely to prevail.


Here, the reason the plaintiff can't prevail is simply because the contract prohibits it. No fancy privilege, just basic contract law.

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Latham Sued For Malicious Prosecution - Above the Law

Latham Sued For Malicious Prosecution - Above the Law | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

Yesterday, a California appellate court overturned the lower court’s dismissal of a malicious prosecution claim against Biglaw mainstay Latham & Watkins. According to the opinion, the lower court was wrong on the statute of limitations, but the opinion also went out of its way to express just how likely the plaintiffs were to prevail on the merits of their claim that Latham doggedly pursued them on a “non-viable” legal theory.


Latham still has an opportunity to defend itself, but the language of this opinion is certainly not encouraging.


The plaintiff already recovered over $1.6 million in fees from Latham’s client, let’s see how they do against the firm…

Aaron Morris's insight:

Shame on the Latham & Watkins law firm.


I have proposed a law akin to the anti-SLAPP statute, which would apply to companies who seek to prevent former employees from creating competing businesses, and this case illustrates why.


The anti-SLAPP statute was passed because companies and individuals would use the time and expense of litigation as a means to silence criticism. If someone is saying something you don't like, just sue them. The critic is then faced with the prospect of spending tens of thousands of dollars on a defense, or just ceasing the criticism.


In the case of employees who leave a company to start a competing business, the business brings suit claiming the use of "trade secrets", and ties the former employees up in years of litigation; all the time knowing that the trade secrets do not exist and are certainly not being used. Sound familiar?


In this case, the plaintiff company brought in experts to testify that the former employees, no matter how good their intentions, they had to be prevented from competing under the doctrine of "inevitable disclosure". One problem, dear experts, inevitable disclosure is not a viable theory in California.


In any event, in this case the former employees beat the bogus suit, and then turned around and sued for malicious prosecution. They won $1.6 million against the company, but Latham & Watkins extracted itself via an anti-SLAPP motion.


But the Court of Appeal reversed, finding that the employees are very likely to prevail, because "this evidence, taken together, supports the conclusion that Latham pursued an obviously meritless claim against Former Employees."

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C.A. Revives Suit Claiming Yelp Lies About Its Review Filter

C.A. Revives Suit Claiming Yelp Lies About Its Review Filter | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it

A restaurateur’s lawsuit accusing the popular review website Yelp of falsely claiming that its software accurately and efficiently filters out biased and unreliable reviews was revived yesterday by the Court of Appeal for this district.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Yvette Palazuelos had tossed out James Demetriades’ suit, citing the anti-SLAPP statute. But Div. One, in an opinion by Justice Jeffrey Johnson, said the suit is exempt from anti-SLAPP treatment because it arises from commercial speech.

Aaron Morris's insight:

This case contains a very interesting discussion of CCP section 425.17 as well as the Communications Decency Act.

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Travolta Pilot's Tell-All Suit Survives Anti-SLAPP Motion

Travolta Pilot's Tell-All Suit Survives Anti-SLAPP Motion | California SLAPP Law | Scoop.it


SAN FRANCISCO — It will take more than an anti-SLAPP motion to bring down a suit filed against John Travolta by the movie star's former pilot, the Second District Court of Appeal ruled Tuesday.

Douglas Gotterba also claims he was Travolta's lover and, according to Tuesday's ruling, planned to publish a tell-all book. Gotterba filed a declaratory judgment action after receiving threatening letters from Travolta's attorney, Los Angeles-based lawyer-to-the-stars Martin Singer. The suit seeks a court order as to the validity of two conflicting termination agreements, one of which contained a confidentiality clause.


On behalf of a unanimous panel, Presiding Justice Arthur Gilbert rejected Singer's claim that the suit against Travolta and his company, Alto Inc., should be dismissed because it seeks to stifle his protected speech.


Read more: http://www.therecorder.com/id=1202664207677/Travolta-Pilots-TellAll-Suit-Survives-AntiSLAPP-Motion#ixzz38JXZBAcE

Aaron Morris's insight:

An entertaining fact pattern. Gotterba was going to come out with the book, so Travolta's attorneys threatened to sue under a confidentiality agreement. So Gotterba's attorneys did what you are supposed to do when you want the court to interpret a contract; they filed a declaratory relief action. But Travolta's attorneys then claimed that the action flowed from their threatening letters, which were protected under the litigation privilege, and brought an anti-SLAPP motion.


The Court of Appeal ruled that the case was not about the threatening letters, and that the anti-SLAPP motion should not prevail.

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Curated by Aaron Morris
A Partner in the law firm of Morris & Stone, with more than 20 years of experience in employment, free speech, defamation and anti-SLAPP law. Call (714) 954-0700 with any questions.