When it enacted the DC anti-SLAPP Act, the DC Council recognized that SLAPPs “have been increasingly utilized over the past two decades as a means to muzzle speech or efforts to petition the government on issues of public interest.” The Council explained that “the goal of the litigation is not to win the lawsuit but punish the opponent and intimidate them into silence” because “defendants of a SLAPP must dedicate a substantial amount of money, time and legal resources.”
As we pass the three-year anniversary of the effective date of the DC anti-SLAPP Act, we now have a more precise picture of exactly how much “money, time and legal resources” SLAPPs actually cost.
For example, in Abbas v. Foreign Policy Group, the defendants (Foreign Policy Group and Jonathan Schanzer) successfully briefed an anti-SLAPP motion (and companion Rule 12(b)(6) motion)). There was no discovery (because it was stayed by the anti-SLAPP motion); no summary judgment motions (because the anti-SLAPP motion was granted); and no trial (same reason). Although the two law firms involved in the case reduced and discounted their fees, they are seeking over $200,000 for their work at the District Court.
Similarly, in Forras v. Rauf, the two law firms involved in the successful anti-SLAPP motion are seeking over $73,000 in attorneys’ fees, albeit for work in both the DC Superior Court (where the action was originally filed) and then at the DC federal court (where the anti-SLAPP motion was granted).
And in Washington Travel Clinic v. Kandrac, after the Superior Court dismissed the majority of the plaintiff’s Complaint, the defendant is seeking over $95,000 in attorneys’ fees.
In each of these cases, the fees were incurred fighting suits that were ultimately dismissed by the courts. Without the early disposition available through the DC anti-SLAPP statute, the defendants might have incurred significantly more fees before prevailing. And that is why anti-SLAPP statutes are so important.