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20120124_Vargas Fee -Petersen Letter

20120124_Vargas Fee -Petersen Letter

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Published by Mark Dierolf
Letter in support of review of Vargas v. City of Salinas (2011) from Gregory G. Petersen.
Letter in support of review of Vargas v. City of Salinas (2011) from Gregory G. Petersen.

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Published by: Mark Dierolf on Jan 28, 2012
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~~fP.
VeteJ0en
18301VonKarmanAve.,Suite330Irvine,California92612Phone-(949)335-3510Fax-(949)640-8983
January24,2012TheChiefJusticeandAssociateJusticesTheSupremeCourtofCalifornia350McAllisterSt.SanFrancisco,CA94120Re:LetterinSupportofGrantofReview
Vargasv.CityofSalinas
CaseNo.:S198996DearHonorableJustices:Iwritetosupportagrantofreviewinthiscase.ThiscaseconcernsCalifornia'santi-SLAPPstatute,§425.16.Thestatuteprovidesforearlyterminationofalawsuitonatimelymotiontostrikewherethelawsuitarisesfromanyact"infurtheranceoftheperson'srightofpetitionorfreespeech"425.16(b»,whichincludesanystatementsmadeinconnectionwith"any...officialproceedingauthorizedbylaw."425.16(e)(.Anditprovidesforamandatoryawardofattorney'sfeestothedefendantwhoprevailsonananti-SLAPPmotion.425.16(c).ThiscasealsoconcernsthequestionofhowearlyterminationofalawsuitdeterminedtobeaSLAPPandtheawardoffeesinfavorofagovernmentaldefendantandagainstapetitioningcitizencomportswiththeconstitutionalrighttopetitionguaranteedbytheFirstAmendment,whichprovides:"Congressshallmakenolaw...abridging...therightofthepeople...topetitiontheGovernmentforaredressofgrievances."(U.S.Const.Amend.
n.
Thecasepresentsaconflictbetweentheabilityofstatestostatutorilycontrolunsuccessfullawsuits,includingshiftingfeesbetweenparties,andtherightofcitizenstoseekredressfromgovernmentintheformofalawsuit-activitywhichthisCourthasrecognizedisimmunizedfromsuchburdens,atleastabsentashowingthatthelawsuitisfrivolousora"sham."
CityofLongBeachv.Bozek
(1982)31Ca1.3d527.
 
TheacronymSLAPP,standingforStrategicLawsuitAgainstPublicParticipation,wascoinedbylawprofessor,GeorgeW.Pringandsociologist,PenelopeCanantodenotetheuseoflegalmechanismstofrustratepublicparticipationindemocraticprocesses.Thetermreferredtocitizenpetitioningactivity.ItdidnotencompassotherFirstAmendmentactivity.'Anditdidnotincludegovernment
agencies.f
ASLAPPlawsuitischaracterizedas"'ameritlesssuitfiledprimarilytochillthedefendant'sexerciseofFirstAmendmentrights.jcitationomitted]"
Dickensv.ProvidentLifeandAce.Ins.Co.
(2004)117Cal.App.4th705,713.ThehallmarkofaSLAPPlawsuitisthatitisfiledtoobtainafinancialadvantageoverone'sadversarybyincreasinglitigationcostsuntiltheadversaryisweakenedorabandonstheiropposition.
U.S.ExRei.Newshamv.LockheedMissiles
(9
th
Cir,1999)190F.3d963,970;Pring,supra,pp.3,5-6,9.Conceptually,thisprototypehasnoapplicationtopublicinterestlitigationbroughttochallengeallegedwrongfulgovernmentpolicies.Washingtonwasthefirststatetoenactananti-SLAPPstatutein1989.Itsscopewaslimitedtoprotectionofapersonwhocommunicatedinformationoracomplainttoagovernmentagency.(Wash.Rev.Code.Ann.§4.24.500-520)In2004,itwasinterpretedtoprovideprotectiontogovernmentactors
(Gontmakherv.CityofBellevue
(2004)120Wn.App.365),andin2008,afeeawardtoagovernmentagencywasupheld.
Segalinev.Dept.ofLaborandInd.
(2008)144Wn.App.312.In2010,theWashingtonSupremeCourtdisagreedwiththelowercourtrulings,holding,"Thepurposeofthestatuteistoprotecttheexerciseofindividuals'FirstAmendmentrights...Agovernmentagencydoesnothavefreespeechrights.
It
makeslittlesensetointerpret"person"heresothatanimmunity,whichthelegislatureenactedtoprotectone'sfreespeechrights,extendstoagovernmentagencythathasnosuchrightstoprotect."
Segalinev.StateDept.ofLaborandInd.
(2010)_P.3d_,_.In1992,CaliforniaenactedlegislationtoaddresstheconcernidentifiedbyPringandCanan.ButCalifornia'sstatutewasnotcircumscribedtoprotectionofpetitionrights.
It-
andotherstatesfollowed-enactedhybridanti-SLAPPlegislationthatgavethesameprotectiontootherFirstAmendmentactivityinadditiontopetitioning."In2010,WashingtonaddedasectionalongCalifornia'sdesign.(Wash.Rev.Code,Ann.
I
PringandCanandefmedaSLAPPasaffectingactivitycoveredbythePetitionClause.Pring,George,"SLAPPs:StrategicLawsuitsAgainstPublicParticipation"(1989)7PaceEnv.L.Rev.I,8;PringandCanan,"SLAPPs:GettingSuedforSpeakingOut"(TempleU.Press1996)8,15.
2
PringandCanan,limitedSLAPPsto"NGOs"(non-governmentofficials).PringandCanan,supra,pp.,8-9.
3
PringandCanan'sModelanti--SLAPPStatuteappliedtoimmunizeacts"infurtheranceoftheconstitutionalrighttopetition"exceptwherenotaimedatprocuring"governmentalorelectoralaction,resultoroutcome."PringandCanan,suprap.203..
 
§4.24.525)4TheDistrictofColumbia'santi-SLAPPlawtookeffectonMarch31,2011.OnJune17,2011,Texasbecamethe28
th
statetopassananti-SLAPPstatute.OneTerritory,Guam,hasenactedanti-SLAPPlegislation.Anti-SLAPPlegislationprovidesstatutoryprotectiontoactivityortoactorsengaginginthedesignatedactivitydelineatedbythestatute.ThisapproachhashadanunanticipatedresultcontrarytoPringandCanan's
conception.f
Whilemanystateshaveenactedhybridanti-SLAPPlegislation,evennon-hybridstatutesoftencontainexpansivelanguagethatprotectsstatementsmadeandactivityinorinrelationtopublic
proceedings."
Thebroaddescriptivelanguageisusedwithoutdifferentiatingastowhetherthe"person"actingorspeakingisagovernmentornon-government
source."
Whenappliedtoagovernmentactorengagingintheprocessesofgovernment,theprotectedactivityisunavoidablyall-encompassing.
4
See,
Castellov.CityofSeattle,etal.
(2010W.D.Wash,)_F.8upp.2d_(applyingtherevisedstatutetostrikeacomplaintagainstgovernmentaldefendantsand-withoutconsideringNoerr-Penningtonimplications-awardingfeesinfavorofthegovernmentalagents).
5
Seesupra,n.2.
6
Becausetheouterlimitsofwhatconstitutespetitioningandtherelativeprotectionsassociatedwithsuchactivitieshavenotbeendemarcated(see,
AlliedTube
&
Conduitv.IndianHead,Inc.
(1988)486U.S.492,indicatingthatsomeactivitiesmeritdifferentdegreesofprotection),simplyprotecting"petitioningactivity"maynotbesufficientlydefiniteforsomelegislators.Ontheotherhand,specifyingprotectionforallmannerofinteractionwithgovernmentofficialswouldprobablyalsobeunsatisfactorytotheextentthatitwouldimmunizeabribetoone'scongresswomanor
quidproquo
contributionsinviolationofcampaignfinancelaws.Asonescholarconsideringtheproblemhasobserved,"Whileagovernmentinterestinprotectingcitizens'rightstopetitioniscompelling,theanti-SLAPPstatuteswithbroadprotectionsfortheexerciseoffreespeechhavebeensusceptibletouseinsituationsotherthanthetypicalSLAPPscenario."Hartzler,Shannon,"ProtectingInformedPublicParticipation:anti-SLAPPLawandtheMediaDefendant"(2007)41ValparaisoUniv.L.Rev.1235,1245.
7
Thisissimplybecausethedescriptivestatutorylanguageisinclusiveofallmannerofspeechandotherinteractionsinvolvinggovernment.WithrespecttothetypicallyexpansivewordingofMissouri'santi--SLAPPstatute,ithasbeenobserved:TheMissourianti--SLAPPstatute'scoverageisverybroad."The'inconnectionwith'textofthestatuteprotectscitizenactivityoutsideofpublichearings[and]meetings....Thus,letterstotheeditor,communicationsamongopposingcitizens,orotherconductthatinsomewayrelatestoeithertheongoing,pastorprospectiveland-useproceedingswouldbetreatedasoccurring'inconnectionwith'suchexpresslycoveredproceedings."[citing,FrederickM.Rowe
&
LeoM.Romero,
ResolvingLand-UseDisputesbyIntimidation,
32N.M.L.Rev.217,237(2002).]Californiacaselawclearlysupportsthisexpansiveinterpretation...Indianarecentlyhadoccasiontoconfirmsuchinterpretationbynotingthatitsstatuteisatypicalanti-SLAPPstatutecoveringbothdirectpetitioningofgovernment
and
petitioning-relatedstatementsandwritings.lciting,
Poulardv.Lauth
(Ind.Ct.App.2003)793N.E.2d1120,1122]Kling,StephenL.,"Missouri'sNewanti-SLAPPLaw"61JournaloftheMissouriBarNo.3(2005).Morespecifically,theauthoracknowledgesthepotentialforstatutoryinterpretationlendinggovernmentagentsprotectionagainstcitizenlawsuits:TheMissourianti-SLAPPstatuteprovidescoveragetoaperson.Whilethisclearlycoversanindividualcitizen,aquestionarisesastohowbroadisthecoverage.Doesitapplytopublicofficials,suchasplanningcommissioners,citycouncilmembers,etc.?...Thereisnodefinitionof"person"inthestatuteanditsplainmeaningwouldargueforexpansivecoverage.

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