Doe v. Gangland Productions, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 09-16-2013
  • Case #: 11-56325
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Pregerson for the Court; Circuit Judges Fletcher and Nguyen
  • Full Text Opinion

Under § 425.16 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, an anti-SLAPP motion will be granted if: (1) the defendant can show that the conduct was in furtherance of his right to free speech and the conduct was connected to a matter of free speech; and (2) the plaintiff then fails to “demonstrate the probability that some of his claims will succeed.”

John Doe, a former gang affiliate, agreed to be interviewed as part of Gangland Production’s (“Gangland”) television show Gangland, which explored high profile gangs. Doe alleged that his interview was conditioned on anonymity. When the episode aired, Doe appeared and was identified by his nickname and as a former gang member. Doe filed suit and asserted several claims, including intentional infliction of emotional distress. Gangland filed an anti-SLAPP motion to strike the claims. The district court denied the motion, holding that the anti-SLAPP statute did not apply; Gangland appealed. The Ninth Circuit granted the interlocutory appeal to determine whether the district court’s denial was proper. Under § 425.16(e), (e)(4) of the California Code of Civil Procedure, in order to succeed on an anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant must meet the initial burden by showing: (1) the conduct was in furtherance of the right to free speech; and (2) the conduct was connected to a matter of public interest. If the defendant meets this burden, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to “demonstrate the probability of prevailing on the merits of each of his claims.” If the plaintiff cannot meet its burden, the claim is stricken. The panel disagreed with the lower court, holding that Gangland did show that its conduct was in furtherance of free speech, and the potential illegality of Gangland’s methods of obtaining the interview and Doe’s unlawful activities were immaterial. The panel also held that Gangland demonstrated the public’s interest in the broad topic of gang activities and was not required to make a specific showing of public interest in Doe’s identity. Lastly, the panel held that the claim could not be stricken because Doe demonstrated a probability of prevailing on four of his claims. AFFIRMED in part and REVERSED in part; REMANDED.

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