Anti-SLAPP Statute Invoked By Fox Television Station

The recently-enacted DC anti-SLAPP statute has been invoked by another defendant. In Lehan v. Fox Television Stations, a case filed in DC Superior Court on June 10, 2011, the plaintiff alleges that he is a highly-regarded DC-firefighter who, “[b]ecause of his reliability and willingness to work overtime, and due to special events and homeland security policies within the District of Columbia, he was frequently offered overtime, which he accepted.”

The complaint alleges that, on January 31, 2011, Fox News published a story about overtime incurred by DC firefighters and emergency medical personnel. It alleges that the story was inaccurate in its description about the amount of overtime the plaintiff incurred, and the amounts he was compensated for his overtime work. It alleges that the story also inaccurately stated that the plaintiff and his brother were in charge of the overtime system.

Today, the defendants moved to dismiss the suit under the anti-SLAPP statute. Their memorandum argues that the news story – excessive overtime by District of Columbia employees, leading to hearings by the DC Council – is an act in furtherance of the right of advocacy on issues of public interest, thus satisfying their burden under the statute and requiring dismissal unless the plaintiff can demonstrate that he is likely to succeed on the merits.

The brief does not address the retroactivity argument made by the libel plaintiff in Sherrod v. Breitbart case, which I expect would be a major argument by the plaintiff here. There, of course, the lawsuit was filed before the effective date of the statute, while the lawsuit here was filed after its effective date.  It remains to be seen whether this makes a difference.  

Leslie Machado

About: Leslie Machado

Mr. Machado counsels and advises a diverse range of clients on various areas of law. He is also an experienced litigator, having tried cases to verdict in state and federal courts. View all posts by Leslie Machado
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