SLAPPs Filed Against Attorneys

SLAPPs Against Plaintiffs and Advocates

  • · In 2003, Erin Brady brought two civil lawsuits alleging that a particular Catholic priest had molested her as a child. Her attorney, Ray Boucher, gave an interview with the Los Angeles Times regarding Brady’s lawsuit. In response, the accused clergy member sued Brady, Ray Boucher and his firm, Kiesel, Boucher & Larson, and SNAP, an advocacy organization for victims of clergy molestation. The clergy member’s lawsuit alleged eight causes of action, including libel based on the accusations in Brady’s two lawsuits, libel based on press releases and a leaflet about the lawsuit distributed by SNAP, and slander based on Boucher’s interview statements. Boucher, his law firm and SNAP filed motions to strike the lawsuit pursuant to California’s anti-SLAPP law, which the court granted. Alzugaray v. Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. BC311107 (2004).
  • · In 1990, the California housing rights organization Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) assisted an African-American woman in filing a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and in prosecuting a small claims court action against her landlords. HUD exonerated the landlords, but the tenant prevailed in small claims court. The landlords then filed suit against ECHO, alleging defamation and infliction of emotional distress from comments ECHO made during HUD’s investigation, including referring to one landlord as a “racist,” and a “a redneck [who] doesn’t like women,” to a HUD investigator and other persons. The trial court dismissed the defamation suit under California’s anti-SLAPP law, but the appeals court reversed. In 1999, the California Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal, holding that the statements made by ECHO were in connection with a government proceeding, and therefore protected. Briggs v. ECHO, 19 Cal.4th 1106 (1999).
  • · In 2002, workers at a Forever 21 clothing factory in California worked for months to resolve their grievances against the company through negotiation. After Forever 21 rejected the workers’ demands for paid back wages and compliance with labor laws, the workers filed a federal complaint, with the help of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center. In response, the head of the company sued 19 individual garment workers and their advocates for libel, slander and other allegations of wrongdoing. A couple months later, the company dropped the individual workers from the suit, but maintained it as against the advocates. The advocates brought an anti-SLAPP motion, which the trial court denied. In 2004, a California appellate court reversed the trial court, holding that the defamation claims lacked merit, and dismissing them against the advocates. See Fashion 21 v. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, 117 Cal.App.4th 1138 (2004).