Rent Control Mobile Home Parks in California
In City of Cotati v. Cashman (2002) 29 Cal.4th 69, the City of Cotati imposed rent control on mobile home parks, which the park owners argued was unconstitutional.
The owners challenged the rent control ordinance in federal court. The city filed a suit in state court seeking a declaration that the ordinance was constitutional.
The park owners moved to dismiss the city's state court lawsuit, arguing it was a SLAPP suit because it "arose from" the owners' federal lawsuit. (Id. at pp. 72-73.)
The California Supreme Court disagreed.
The Supreme Court noted that the city may have filed its state court complaint after the owners filed their federal action, but that both lawsuits sought to resolve the constitutionality of the rent control ordinance. Thus, the city's lawsuit did not "arise from" the owner's constitutionally protected right to file their federal lawsuit, but instead from dispute regarding the ordinance itself. The Court stated, "in the anti-SLAPP context, the critical point is whether the plaintiff's cause of action itself was based on an act in furtherance of the defendant's right of petition or free speech." (City of Cotati, supra, 29 Cal.4th at p. 78.)
In City of Cotati, the court addressed the situation whether a responsive suit "arises from" protected activity, and concluded that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply. (City of Cotati, supra, 29 Cal.4th at pp. 71-72, 79-81.)
There, several mobilehome park owners brought an action in federal court challenging a city rent control ordinance. (Id. at pp. 72-73.)
The city responded by filing an action in state court seeking a declaration that the law was constitutional. The owners moved to strike the city's action as a SLAPP suit. The court held that the city's state court action was based on the existence of a controversy over the constitutionality of the ordinance, not the owners' filing of the federal court action. (Id. at pp. 79-81.)
As the City of Cotati court explained, "the mere fact an action was filed after protected activity took place does not mean it arose from that activity. . . . To construe 'arising from' in section 425.16, subdivision (b)(1) as meaning 'in response to,' . . . would in effect render all cross-actions potential SLAPP's." (City of Cotati, supra, 29 Cal. 4th at pp. 76-77.)
The court added:
"Just as a cross-complaint often 'arises out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences as the cause of action which the plaintiff alleges' , so may a responsive but independent lawsuit arise from the same transaction or occurrence alleged in a preceding lawsuit, without necessarily arising from that earlier lawsuit itself. " (Id. at pp. 77-78.) Rather, the court concluded that "the statutory phrase 'cause of action . . . arising from' means simply that the defendant's act underlying the plaintiff's cause of action must itself have been an act in furtherance of the right of petition or free speech. In the anti-SLAPP context, the critical point is whether the plaintiff's cause of action itself was based on an act in furtherance of the defendant's right of petition or free speech. " (Id. at p. 78.)