Nice Legal Writing

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Just came across this Introduction to an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss a libel lawsuit; I can't speak to the merits of the case, but I liked the writing, and I thought I'd pass it along. The author is Dan Terzian of Warren Terzian LLP (whom I don't know personally, but who I was pleased to see is a UCLA Law graduate); I've changed the names of the parties because they're beside the point for my purpose:

Plaintiffs [Paul Poe] and [Poe's company] bought a thriving residential community in Belize, [Sunnydale], and [ran] it into the ground. They've siphoned its money. They've threatened its residents. They've refused to build what they promised while also refusing to refund the money taken to build it. They've sold property knowing it had a lien that could be foreclosed at any time, hiding that from the buyer. They've sold others' property and kept the money for themselves.

Defendants are Plaintiffs' victims. Defendant [Donald Doe] is one of [Sunnydale]'s former employees and investors; the rest are homeowners. And the homeowners are fed up. Their livelihoods are in [Sunnydale], and Plaintiffs are destroying them.

Defendants contacted [Doe] about logistical and background questions on [Sunnydale]. And [Doe] truthfully answered them. That's it. He's not trying to retake [Sunnydale]. He has no interest in that; Plaintiffs have saddled it with liabilities.

Plaintiffs now bring this complaint, claiming that Defendants are conspiring to remove Plaintiffs so that [Doe] can retake ownership by a coordinated defamation campaign. Almost all of this is false. There is no defamation; everything Defendants said is true. And [Doe] is not trying to take back [Sunnydale]. Just one part is true: the homeowner Defendants want Plaintiffs out, but there's nothing unlawful about that.

This is a classic SLAPP suit. Courts have repeatedly recognized that these type of homeowner disputes are appropriate for anti-SLAPP motions. And this is especially true here, where the dispute—including Plaintiffs' scams—has been covered in many news articles.

On an anti-SLAPP motion, Plaintiffs lose on the merits and lose on jurisdiction. Defendants' conduct is all protected by the First Amendment. And all that conduct occurred outside California and was targeted on what's happening in Belize, not here.

While certainly the Court could grant the motion on jurisdiction and stop there, it shouldn't. Plaintiffs have ceaselessly harassed Defendants. This should end now, and the Court should grant the motion on the merits and on jurisdiction.

NEXT: Libel Lawsuit by Trump Supporter (and Sanctuary-State Opponent) Roslyn La Liberte Against MSNBC's Joy Reid Can Go Forward

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “Defendants contacted [Doe]”

    Think that should be “Plaintiffs contacted [Doe].”

    1. No, I think it’s the defendants, though the defendants other than Doe (i.e., the homeowners).

  2. Plaintiffs [Paul Poe] and [Poe’s company] bought a thriving residential community in Belize, [Sunnydale], and run it into the ground.

    Assuming that’s not a transcription error, not off to a great start…

    1. Good point — I didn’t see that error (and neither did the author). Still, it’s on balance nice legal writing even despite the glitch ….

    2. They bought it in the past, and they continue to run it into the ground in the present. Imagine “to this day” added to the end of the sentence.

      Or maybe it’s a typo.

  3. I like the writing, and it has a quality that Dean Farnsworth didn’t mention when he was recently blogging here: short sentences, intentionally choppy. Sometimes beginning with ‘and’, which your composition teacher would discourage, which add to the urgency by showijng that it is, indeed, piling on. You feel the rhythm of the carpenter’s hammer driving every nail.

  4. Are we doing contractions now? I’ve been avoiding them but I see them more and more in judicial opinions and good legal writing. I also see them in atrocious legal writing, although that is usually the least bad part of those examples.

  5. Plaintiffs [Paul Poe] and [Poe’s company] bought a thriving residential community in Belize, [Sunnydale], and run it into the ground.

    Is this not a statement of past facts leading to now? I’m not sure the grammar is wrong here.
    Obviously, a person must Buy an item before they run it into the ground, but it is not required in the other direction. It is not required that after buying, the state of the property is ran into the ground.
    ‘You bought a dog, and run it.’

  6. From Ross Guberman’s Point Made: How to Write Like the Nation’s Top Advocates, Ch. 36: Starting Gate: The One-Syllable Opener –
    “One of the easiest ways to refine your style is to start more of your sentences with short, punchy transition words. In fact, the ability to do so is a hallmark of the best advocates’ writing.”

    Beginning sentences with “They’ve” (not “they have”) and the conjunction “And” (not typically favored to begin a sentence) give the writing an informal, matter-of-fact style that sticks in one’s head by creating a cadence, a rhythm, much like a poem. I like it. 🙂

  7. Good writing.

    Unacceptable at most firms. If an associate wrote like that, the partner would have a few words.

Please to post comments