The squabble between the former rocker and well-known liberal MSNBC host spilled over into two courts. (For all the gory details, see my prior posts here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here).
The quick version is that former rocker and current Christian minister Dean sued MSNBC host Maddow in DC Superior Court, alleging that she defamed him on broadcasts in 2010 and 2011. Maddow and the other defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion, which Dean opposed. His opposition challenged the DC Council’s authority to enact the anti-SLAPP statute, which prompted the DC Attorney General to intervene to defend the statute. The defendants also filed a reply brief in support of their anti-SLAPP motion.
Just days before the Superior Court was set to decide the motions, the 3M v. Boulter federal court issued its decision, holding that the anti-SLAPP act could not be applied in federal court. Dean promptly filed his suit there, and sought to voluntarily dismiss it in the DC Superior Court.
That’s when all the fun started. The DC Superior Court judge held that, if Dean wanted to forum shop, he could so do, but he needed to reimburse the defendants for the fees they incurred in the Superior Court action (as long as that work could not be used in the federal court action). In the interim, Judge Leon stayed the federal court case until resolution of the Superior Court action.
Dean protested that he was the master of his forum, and could elect to bring his suit in federal court. He refused to pay the fees that were ordered by the Superior Court judge as a condition for being allowed to pursue his claims in federal court, and instead moved to have the judge recused, alleging that she was biased. She denied that motion and dismissed his suit with prejudice for his failure to pay the fees, meaning that it cannot be brought again.
The case has now found its way to the DC Court of Appeals. At this point, it has very little to do with the DC anti-SLAPP act, and instead focuses on whether the Superior Court judge properly conditioned the dismissal on the payment of fees; whether the fees were reasonable; and whether the judge should have been recused. You can read Dean’s opening brief here, and the defendants’ opposition brief here.