The DC Superior Court today granted an anti-SLAPP motion made by the defendants in Lehan v. Fox. This is the first successful anti-SLAPP motion since the statute became effective earlier this year. (Although the Order appears to have been signed on November 30, it was filed today).
While the Court did not issue an opinion, it made oral findings and conclusions, which it incorporated into its Order. Essentially, the Court held that the statute applied to the pending case because, as the defendants had argued in their reply brief, the “burden of proof on the plaintiff does not change [with the passage of the anti-SLAPP statute]. It simply is accelerated a little bit, in part.” The Court agreed with the plaintiffs that the statute “does not change the substance of the law” but “simply shifts the time.”
The Court held that the anti-SLAPP statute applied to the news story because the subject of the report – “the way that the City’s money is spent” – is an issue of public interest. It held that the disputed issue of whether the plaintiff was a private or public figure was not relevant because, under either standard of fault, the plaintiff could not prevail. Finally, the Court held that the plaintiff had failed to demonstrate damages.