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Anti-SLAPP Motion in Dan Snyder v. Washington City Paper and Dave McKenna

Anti-SLAPP Motion in Dan Snyder v. Washington City Paper and Dave McKenna

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On June 17, Washington City Paper and staff writer Dave McKenna filed papers seeking to have Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's defamation lawsuit dismissed under the District's anti-SLAPP law. Among other purposes, the law is designed to protect news organizations against lawsuits intended to intimidate them out of writing about public figures. The law requires the case to be dismissed unless Snyder can prove that he is "likely to succeed" on the merits of his complaint.
On June 17, Washington City Paper and staff writer Dave McKenna filed papers seeking to have Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder's defamation lawsuit dismissed under the District's anti-SLAPP law. Among other purposes, the law is designed to protect news organizations against lawsuits intended to intimidate them out of writing about public figures. The law requires the case to be dismissed unless Snyder can prove that he is "likely to succeed" on the merits of his complaint.

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Published by: Washington City Paper on Jun 17, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/17/2011

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IN THE SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIACIVIL DIVISIONDANIEL M. SNYDER,Plaintiff,v.CREATIVE LOAFING, INC., CLWASHINGTON, INC. (d/b/aWASHINGTON CITY PAPER); andDAVE MCKENNA,Defendants.Civil Action No. 2011 CA 003168 BJudge Todd E. EdelmanNext court date: July 29, 2011Event: Initial scheduling conferenceSPECIAL MOTION TO DISMISS THE COMPLAINT
Pursuant to the District of Columbia Anti-SLAPP Act of 2010, D.C. Code § 16-5502(a)(“the Anti-SLAPP Act” or “the Act”), defendants CL Washington, Inc. (d/b/a
Washington CityPaper 
) and Dave McKenna hereby respectfully move for an order dismissing the Complaint withprejudice.As set forth more fully in the accompanying Memorandum, by this defamation lawsuit,plaintiff Daniel Snyder, the very public and controversial owner of the Washington Redskinsfootball team, seeks to use the processes of this Court as a vehicle to punish the author andpublisher of a commentary criticalofhim, and to send a message to the news media generallythat such reporting will lead to prohibitively expensive and time-consuming litigation.Thankfully, the District of Columbia has enacted legislation, the Anti-SLAPP Act, that isdesigned precisely to preclude such misuse of the judicial process.The commentaryat issue was published by
Washington City Paper 
, an alternativenewsweekly, in the edition dated November 19, 2010 (the “Commentary”). It appeared underthe cover headline, “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” and was written byDave McKenna. The Commentary catalogs a long history of previously documented andreported public controversies in which Mr.Snyder has been embroiled, employing the sharp,
 
2colorful prose familiar to readers of the publication and common to the genre in which itappeared.Mr. Snyder has conceded that he is a public figure. More significantly, he and hisrepresentatives have declared publicly and unabashedly that he brought this action
not 
to gaincompensation for anyinjury to his reputation, but rather to punish and intimidate the author andpublisher of an unflattering account of his public life, as well as to dissuade others fromcriticizing him in the future.When faced with such a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” arising “from anact in furtherance of the right of advocacyon issues of public interest,” a defendant in a court inthe District of Columbia “may file a special motion to dismiss” under the Anti-SLAPP Act.D.C.Code § 16-5502(a). The Act is expressly designed to bring an early and definitive end tolawsuits instituted by those plaintiffs who have made litigation their “‘weapon of choice’”against their public critics, “not to win the lawsuit but to punish the opponent and intimidatetheminto silence.” Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on Public Safety and theJudiciary, Report on Bill 18-893 (Nov. 19, 2010) at 4.
1
Accordingly, the Act provides that thespecial “motion
shall be granted 
unless the responding party demonstrates that the claim
is likelyto succeed on the merits
,” D.C. Code § 15-5502(b) (emphasis added), and the dismissal “
shall
bewithprejudice,” D.C. Code § 16-5502(d) (emphasis added).Defendants’ publication of the Commentary falls comfortably within the protectionsafforded by the Anti-SLAPP Act—itplainly constitutes “expressive conduct that involves...communicating views to members of the public in connection with an issue of public interest,”D.C. Code §16-5501(1)(B), which the Act expressly defines to encompass the public discussionof“issue[s] related to” the conduct of “a public figure” such as Mr. Snyder. D.C. Code§16-5501(3). The Commentary is, therefore, immune from suitunless Mr. Snyder is able to
1
A copy of the newly codified statute is attached as Exhibit 26 to the Affidavit of Alia L. Smith,Esq., filed herewith, and a copy of the cited Committee Report likewise is attached as Exhibit 27.
 
3discharge the heavy burden the Act imposes on him to demonstrate that he is “likely to succeedon the merits” of his defamation claims. D.C. Code § 16-5502(b).This he cannot do. Not only has he publicly acknowledged the improper purposes that infact undergird this litigation, but his ever-shifting explicationofwhythe Commentaryisallegedly actionable in defamation further reveals his lawsuit for what it is—a pretext forpunishing and silencing his critics. As demonstrated in the materials accompanying this motion,Mr. Snyder has moved from complaining publiclyabout statements that, on inspection, appearnowhere in the Commentary; to suing over artwork that any first-year law student knows is notthe proper basis for a defamation action; to his current Complaint, which wrenches out of contextsubstantiallyaccurate accounts of his prior conduct, themselves drawn from the voluminousarchives of public records and previously published press accounts that document his public life,and ascribes to them allegedly defamatory meanings that no reasonable reader would credit.Simply put, Mr. Snyder cannot demonstrate that it is even
arguable
he can succeed on the meritsofhis current claims, much less that he is, as the Anti-SLAPP Act requires,
likely
to do so.WHEREFORE, defendants
Washington City Paper 
and Dave McKenna respectfullyrequest that the Court grant their special motion to dismiss and enter judgment in their favordismissing the Complaint with prejudice.
2
Rule 12-I(a) Certification
Pursuant to Superior Court Rule 12-I(a), undersigned counsel hereby certifies thatcounsel for the defendants consulted with counsel for the plaintiff (Jill Basinger, Esq.) on June 6,2011, regarding whether plaintiff would consent to the relief sought herein. Plaintiff does notconsent.
 
2
Under the Anti-SLAPP Act, defendants who prevail on a special motion to dismiss may begranted an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. D.C. Code § 16-5504(a).

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