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, CL WASHINGTON, INC. (d/b/a WASHINGTON CITY PAPER); and DAVE MCKENNA, Defendants. Next court date: July 29, 2011 Event: Initial scheduling conference Civil Action No. 2011 CA 003168 B Judge Todd E. Edelman
SPECIAL 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 City Paper) and Dave McKenna hereby respectfully move for an order dismissing the Complaint with prejudice. 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 Redskins football team, seeks to use the processes of this Court as a vehicle to punish the author and publisher of a commentary critical of him, and to send a message to the news media generally that such reporting will lead to prohibitively expensive and time-consuming litigation. Thankfully, the District of Columbia has enacted legislation, the Anti-SLAPP Act, that is designed precisely to preclude such misuse of the judicial process. The commentary at issue was published by Washington City Paper, an alternative newsweekly, in the edition dated November 19, 2010 (the “Commentary”). It appeared under the cover headline, “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder,” and was written by Dave McKenna. The Commentary catalogs a long history of previously documented and reported public controversies in which Mr. Snyder has been embroiled, employing the sharp,
colorful prose familiar to readers of the publication and common to the genre in which it appeared. Mr. Snyder has conceded that he is a public figure. More significantly, he and his representatives have declared publicly and unabashedly that he brought this action not to gain compensation for any injury to his reputation, but rather to punish and intimidate the author and publisher of an unflattering account of his public life, as well as to dissuade others from criticizing him in the future. When faced with such a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” arising “from an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest,” a defendant in a court in the 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 to lawsuits 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 intimidate them into silence.” Council of the District of Columbia, Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary, Report on Bill 18-893 (Nov. 19, 2010) at 4.1 Accordingly, the Act provides that the special “motion shall be granted unless the responding party demonstrates that the claim is likely to succeed on the merits,” D.C. Code § 15-5502(b) (emphasis added), and the dismissal “shall be with prejudice,” D.C. Code § 16-5502(d) (emphasis added). Defendants’ publication of the Commentary falls comfortably within the protections afforded by the Anti-SLAPP Act—it plainly 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 discussion of “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 suit unless Mr. Snyder is able to
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.
discharge the heavy burden the Act imposes on him to demonstrate that he is “likely to succeed on 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 in fact undergird this litigation, but his ever-shifting explication of why the Commentary is allegedly actionable in defamation further reveals his lawsuit for what it is—a pretext for punishing and silencing his critics. As demonstrated in the materials accompanying this motion, Mr. Snyder has moved from complaining publicly about statements that, on inspection, appear nowhere in the Commentary; to suing over artwork that any first-year law student knows is not the proper basis for a defamation action; to his current Complaint, which wrenches out of context substantially accurate accounts of his prior conduct, themselves drawn from the voluminous archives 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 merits of his 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 respectfully request that the Court grant their special motion to dismiss and enter judgment in their favor dismissing the Complaint with prejudice.2
Rule 12-I(a) Certification Pursuant to Superior Court Rule 12-I(a), undersigned counsel hereby certifies that counsel 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 not consent.
Under the Anti-SLAPP Act, defendants who prevail on a special motion to dismiss may be granted an award of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. D.C. Code § 16-5504(a).
Hearing Required By Statute Pursuant to the Anti-SLAPP Act, defendants are entitled to a hearing on this special motion to dismiss. D.C. Code § 16-5502(d) (“[t]he court shall hold an expedited hearing on the special motion to dismiss”) (emphasis added). Accordingly, pursuant to the Anti-SLAPP acts as well as Rule 12-I(f) of this Court, defendants respectfully request that the Court hold a hearing on this special motion to dismiss.
Dated: June 17, 2011 BAKER & HOSTETLER, L.L.P. By: /s/ Bruce D. Brown Bruce D. Brown (D.C. Bar No. 457317) Mark I. Bailen (D.C. Bar No. 459623) Washington Square, Suite 1100 1050 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Washington, DC 20036-5304 Telephone: (202) 861-1660 Facsimile: (202) 861-1783 email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Counsel for Defendant Dave McKenna
Respectfully submitted, LEVINE SULLIVAN KOCH & SCHULZ, L.L.P. By: /s/ Jay Ward Brown Seth D. Berlin (D.C. Bar No. 433611) Jay Ward Brown (D.C. Bar No. 437686) Alia L. Smith (D.C. Bar No. 992629) 1050 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Suite 800 Washington, D.C. 20036 Telephone: (202) 508-1100 Facsimile: (202) 861-9888 email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com David M. Snyder (pro hac vice pending) DAVID M. SNYDER, P.A. 1810 S. MacDill Avenue, Suite 4 Tampa, FL 33629-5960 Telephone: (813) 258-4501 Facsimile: (813) 258-4402 firstname.lastname@example.org Counsel for Defendant CL Washington, Inc.
CERTIFICATE OF SERVICE I hereby certify that on this 17th day of June 2011, I directed that true and correct copies of the foregoing Special Motion to Dismiss the Complaint, Memorandum of Points and Authorities in Support of the Motion, Corporate Disclosure Statement, Proposed Order, and Affidavit of Alia L. Smith, Esq. (together with all exhibits) filed by defendants CL Washington, Inc. and Dave McKenna be served by the Court’s electronic filing system on counsel for plaintiff: Richard W. Smith Jacqueline Browder Chaffee McDermott Will & Emery LLP 600 13th Street, NW Washington, DC 20005 email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Patricia Glaser Jill Basinger Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP 10250 Constellation Blvd. 19th Floor Los Angeles, CA 90067 email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
I further certify that on this same date I directed that a Chamber’s copy of the aforesaid documents be sent to the appropriate depository at the Courthouse for delivery to the Hon. Todd Edelman by Monday, June 20, 2011.
/s/ Alia L. Smith Alia L. Smith
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