All Americans are entitled to freedom of expression, which is a right enshrined in both the Constitution of the United States of America and in the California Constitution. Yet each year, countless Californians find their rights to free expression challenged in court, in lawsuits that are known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (“SLAPP” suits).
SLAPP suits have been brought in many different contexts, including against those who post online reviews, write letters to the editor taking issue with a property development, report police misconduct, speak in public assemblies, or even testify before Congress. Across the board, these lawsuits threaten the rights of free speech that we all share—and many are judged to be legally meritless. Dhillon Law Group is proud to defend against SLAPP lawsuits and uphold our clients’ constitutionally-enshrined free expression rights.
California’s Anti-SLAPP Law
About SLAPP Lawsuits
Unfortunately, SLAPP lawsuits are common in California, where they are often filed against individuals who express public opposition to goals pursued by the plaintiff(s).
The Anti-SLAPP Statute
Thankfully, California has enacted laws that offer some protections against these frivolous SLAPP cases. California’s Anti-SLAPP statutes have been on the books for more than two decades, and enable a defendant to file a motion to dismiss SLAPP suits at the earliest point in a case, before regular discovery is taken, and to recover attorney’s fees and costs associated with this effort.
The Anti-SLAPP Process
Here is a general breakdown of how SLAPP cases tend to unfold:
- It often starts when you receive a demand letter; this letter will urge you to stop exercising your free speech rights, and threaten a SLAPP suit if you do not comply.
- From there, it is common for a lawsuit to be filed against you if you did not comply with the threats in the letter, including a summons and complaint filed by the SLAPP filer and his/her/their attorney.
- The lawsuit will then be served on you. In most cases, it is served personally. The suit must be served on you before you have any obligation to respond.
- Once served, generally you have 30 days to file an initial response, and a total of 60 days to file an anti-SLAPP motion. Failure to do so will likely result in a “default” ruling against you. It is imperative to have our anti-SLAPP attorneys move quickly to analyze your case.
- Once an anti-SLAPP motion is filed, the court will then decide to either strike the case completely, or allow the case to continue in part or in full.
- If the court does not dismiss your case on the basis of your anti-SLAPP motion, you can file an appeal and have the decision reconsidered.
- If your anti-SLAPP motion succeeds, you are entitled to file a motion to have all your attorney’s fees and costs paid by the plaintiff.
At Dhillon Law Group, we vigorously defend free speech and expression, and stand beside Californians whose rights to speak out are curbed or threatened by SLAPP lawsuits.
Among our successful anti-SLAPP results, we:
- Achieved dismissal of a defamation case via an anti-SLAPP motion, resulting in creation of new law recognizing that Title IX proceedings are protected forums for speech activity under the anti-SLAPP statute;
- Filed a successful anti-SLAPP motion in a highly-publicized disagreement between members of a Los Angeles-based political party, achieving early dismissal.
Legal Advice on Anti-SLAPP Suits
Our attorneys can provide thorough analysis and guidance for those faced with defending a SLAPP suit, including crafting a strategy, filing a forceful motion, and offering you a vigorous defense in the courtroom. Get the legal counsel you need before proceeding with an anti-SLAPP motion; contact Dhillon Law Group for a consultation.