SLAPP’d in Boston: Massachusetts High Court Waters Down First Amendment Protection
California’s anti-SLAPP law protects persons who are unfairly targeted in a lawsuit arising from activities protected by the First Amendment. A defendant who is sued for speaking out at a city council meeting or filing a lawsuit can invoke the anti-SLAPP statute and obtain a quick dismissal of a frivolous case. California’s courts have long held that there is no “intent to chill” requirement to obtain a dismissal. (Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, Inc. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 53, 67). The plaintiff’s intentions in filing a lawsuit are “ultimately beside the point.” (Ibid.)
Today, Massachusetts’ high court issued a decision that substantially waters down anti-SLAPP protection in that state. In Blanchard v. Steward Carney Hospital, Inc. (May 23, 2017 No. SJC-12141), the high court ruled that a plaintiff can avoid a dismissal if it can demonstrate that the lawsuit was not filed primarily to chill a defendant’s First Amendment rights. This is a low-threshold that will be easily met by the great majority of plaintiffs in Massachusetts opposing anti-SLAPP motions. Hopefully, California will not follow this direction and introduce a “good faith” intention exception to California’s robust anti-SLAPP statute.
Jeffrey Lewis and the other attorneys at Broedlow Lewis LLP are experienced trial and appellate attorneys who can advise you about the specifics of your anti-SLAPP issue or appeal. Each case is different and you should consult a lawyer rather than relying on this post as legal advice for your situation. If you are contemplating filing or responding to lawsuit or appeal with potential anti-SLAPP issues, consider hiring a certified appellate specialist as your lawyer or co-counsel. Don’t wing it, win it.