The Volokh Conspiracy

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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.