Judge Reaffirms That Anti-SLAPP Statute Does Not Apply in Federal Court

Last month, the judge presiding over the Deripaska v. Associated Press case granted the Associated Press’ Rule 12(b)(6) motion and dismissed the case. The Associated Press had filed a companion special motion to dismiss under the DC anti-SLAPP statute. The federal court issued a separate opinion, denying that motion.

The federal district court agreed that, when the DC Court of Appeals has “spoken clearly and unmistakably as to the current state of D.C. law,” a federal court should follow that decision (e.g., Mann), even if it appears to be in conflict with a prior decision from the DC Circuit (e.g., Abbas). The court concluded, however, that the Mann decision did not “clearly and unmistakably” resolve the question of whether a federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction may apply the D.C. anti-SLAPP Act’s special motion to dismiss provision. The court acknowledged that its decision “will likely promote the type of forum-shopping that Erie intended to avoid,” but explained that “it is not for district court judges to override the determinations of circuit precedent.”  As a result, the court denied the Associated Press’s anti-SLAPP special motion to dismiss.

The issue of whether the DC anti-SLAPP state can be applied in a federal court diversity case (after Mann) will ultimately need to be decided by the DC Circuit. And the question of whether state anti-SLAPP statutes can be applied in a federal court diversity case will ultimately need to be decided by the Supreme Court. For now, I assume that parties proceeding in DC federal court diversity cases will continue to make their motions. We’ll discuss two more such motions in our next post.

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.

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