Subpoenas not subject to anti-SLAPP in Internet Defamation Case

Defamation of Character SLAPP Subpoena

Plaintiff obtained a pre-filing discovery order in Ohio to aid in his effort to learn the identities of the anonymous individuals who had posted statements about him on the Internet that he believed were defamatory. Defendants, who we will refer to as the Does, are the anonymous individuals who posted those statements. When Google, the subject of Tendler’s discovery order, refused to comply with Ohio subpoenas, Tendler filed a request for subpoenas in Santa Clara County Superior Court premised on the Ohio discovery order. The Does filed a motion to quash and a Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 motion to strike (anti-SLAPP motion). The threat of having to pay defendants’ attorney fees was sufficient for him to withdraw his request for subpoenas. Nonetheless, the Does proceeded on their section 425.16 motion to strike.

The trial court granted the Does’ anti-SLAPP motion to strike, and awarded them their attorney fees. The trial court concluded that a request for subpoenas was sufficient to trigger the anti-SLAPP procedure. The Court of Appeal disagreed, and concluded that a request for subpoenas does not fall within section 425.16, and therefore the trial court erred in granting the motion and in awarding attorney’s fees.

This was another example of a trial court misusing the anti-SLAPP procedure to try to clear its trial docket. In a standard action, where defendant tries to strike the complaint by way of an anti-SLAPP motion, the trial court must afford reasonable discovery so that plaintiff can try to find sufficient evidence to create a prima facie case. If a plaintiff could be subjected to an anti-SLAPP motion from the mere request for discovery, that would greatly reduce his ability to defend his reputation.

Tendler v. (2008) 164 Cal.App.4th 802

Aaron Morris

Morris & Stone, LLP
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Lake Forest, CA 92630
(714) 954-0700

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