Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16 - California's Anti-SLAPP Statute
Code of Civil Procedure Section 425.16 allows a defendant or cross-defendant to obtain dismissal of a nonmeritorious SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) suit at an early stage of the litigation. (Bradbury v. Superior Court (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1108, 1113.)
The statute provides that a special motion to strike may be filed as to any "cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue . . . unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim." ( 425.16, subd. (b)(1).)
"The moving defendant's burden is to demonstrate that the act or acts of which the plaintiff complains were taken 'in furtherance of the defendant's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue,' as defined in the statute." (Equilon Enterprises v. Consumer Cause, Inc. (2002) 29 Cal.4th 53, 67.)
Such acts include:
(1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law;
(2) any written or oral statement or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law;
(3) any written or oral statement or writing made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest;
(4) or any other conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public interest." ( 425.16, subd. (e).)
In Church of Scientology v. Wollersheim (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 628, 651, the court discussed the application of section 425.16 to compulsory cross-complaints. "Although a cross-complaint may be subject to a section 425.16 motion, not all cross-complaints would qualify as SLAPP suits.
A defendant may file a cross-complaint against the plaintiff for any existing cause of action regardless of its nature and origins. (Code Civ. Proc., 428.10, subd. (a).)
Only those cross-complaints alleging a cause of action arising from the plaintiff's act of filing the complaint against the defendant and the subsequent litigation would potentially qualify as a SLAPP action. ( 425.16, subds. (b) and (d).) . . . A compulsory cross-complaint on a 'related cause of action' against the plaintiff (Code Civ. Proc., 426.30, subd. (a)) would rarely, if ever, qualify as a SLAPP suit arising from petition activity. By definition, a 'related cause of action' is 'a cause of action which arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences as the cause of action which the plaintiff alleges in his complaint.' (Code Civ. Proc., 426.10, subd. (c) . . . .) The SLAPP suit is not 'related' to the transaction or occurrence which is the subject of the plaintiff's complaint, but arises out of the litigation process itself."