In January, I wrote about anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss filed by the Trump Campaign and Roger Stone in response to a DC federal court suit alleging they “entered into an agreement with other parties, including agents of Russia and WikiLeaks, to have information stolen from the DNC publicly disseminated in a strategic way that would benefit the campaign to elect Mr. Trump as President.”
I noted the suit was assigned to Judge Huvelle, who had already ruled last October (in Deripaska v. Associated Press) that the Court of Appeals’ Mann decision did not “clearly and unmistakably” resolve the question of whether a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction may apply the D.C. anti-SLAPP Act’s special motion to dismiss provision, so that the court was bound to follow the DC Circuit’s Abbas decision. Then, in January, Judge Huvelle ruled (in Democracy Partners v. Project Veritas Action Fund) the anti-SLAPP statute could not be applied in a DC federal court case based on federal question jurisdiction. As such, I wrote in May that:
There are still anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss pending in at least three other DC federal court diversity cases (although one is in a case before Judge Huvelle, who it reasonably can be expected will adhere to her conclusion in Deripaska).
Last Tuesday, Judge Huvelle granted motions to dismiss filed by the Trump Campaign and Stone and dismissed the suit on the basis the DC federal court lacked personal jurisdiction over the defendants. (The court’s opinion emphasized the dismissal was “not based on a finding that there was no collusion between defendants and Russia during the 2016 presidential election” (emphasis in original)). The court, unsurprisingly, also rejected the defendants’ anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss:
The Court denies defendants’ motions to dismiss under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act. The Court continues to adhere to its view that controlling precedent precludes the application of D.C.’s Anti-SLAPP Act in federal court. Democracy Partners v. Project Veritas Action Fund, 285 F. Supp. 3d 109, 127-28 (D.D.C. 2018) (citing Abbas v. Foreign Policy Grp., LLC, 783 F.3d 1328 (D.C. Cir. 2015)); see also Deripaska v. Associated Press, No. 17-cv-913, 2017 WL 8896059, at *1 (D.D.C. Oct. 17, 2017), appeal dismissed, No. 17-7164, 2017 WL 6553388 (D.C. Cir. Dec. 8, 2017).
Meanwhile, in Superior Court news, two previously-filed (but never ruled upon) anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss may be returning to the front burner. In March, I wrote about separate anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss filed by the American Psychological Association and Sidley & Austin in response to a Superior Court complaint filed by plaintiffs who alleged they were defamed and cast in a false light in an investigative report prepared by Sidley. Sidley conducted an investigation and prepared the report at the request of the APA, following allegations the APA had colluded with U.S. military officials to enable the torture of detainees in off-shore locations following the events of 9/11. After defendants filed their anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss, the Superior Court stayed the case pending the resolution of a virtually-identical case in Ohio that was then on appeal (with that trial court having dismissed the suit for lack of jurisdiction).
Last month, the Ohio appellate court held the trial court correctly dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Although the plaintiffs could still seek review in the Ohio Supreme Court, there is no guarantee that court would agree to accept their appeal. As such, if no appeal is filed, or if a petition for review is denied, the plaintiffs would, I suspect, pursue their case in Superior Court, which would then return the anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss to the forefront. As always, stay tuned.