Getting SLAPP-ed in Federal Court: Applying State Anti-SLAPP Special Motions to Dismiss in Federal Court After Shady Grove

by Katelyn E. Saner

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Abstract

In recent years, dozens of states have enacted anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) laws to counter SLAPP suits, or lawsuits filed to silence a defendant who has spoken out against a plaintiff. The goal of a SLAPP suit is not to win on the merits, but rather to discourage the defendant’s right to free speech through the prospect of ruinously expensive litigation. State anti-SLAPP laws provide for special motions to dismiss, which allow a defendant to file an expedited motion to dispose of the SLAPP suit before engaging in costly discovery.

It is well established that a federal court sitting in diversity applies state substantive law and federal procedural rules. Following the Supreme Court’s opinion in Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates, P.A. v. Allstate Insurance Co., however, it is unclear whether the state-level anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss should apply in federal courts. This Note discusses Shady Grove and examines how two lower courts have struggled to make sense of Shady Grove in the context of state anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss. This Note then proposes a more nuanced, two-pronged interpretation for determining the applicability of state laws in federal courts. Applying this interpretation, this Note argues that state anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss should apply in federal courts.

Getting SLAPP-ed in Federal Court: Applying State Anti-SLAPP Special Motions to Dismiss in Federal Court After Shady Grove

by Katelyn E. Saner

Click here for a PDF file of this article

Abstract

In recent years, dozens of states have enacted anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) laws to counter SLAPP suits, or lawsuits filed to silence a defendant who has spoken out against a plaintiff. The goal of a SLAPP suit is not to win on the merits, but rather to discourage the defendant’s right to free speech through the prospect of ruinously expensive litigation. State anti-SLAPP laws provide for special motions to dismiss, which allow a defendant to file an expedited motion to dispose of the SLAPP suit before engaging in costly discovery.

It is well established that a federal court sitting in diversity applies state substantive law and federal procedural rules. Following the Supreme Court’s opinion in Shady Grove Orthopedic Associates, P.A. v. Allstate Insurance Co., however, it is unclear whether the state-level anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss should apply in federal courts. This Note discusses Shady Grove and examines how two lower courts have struggled to make sense of Shady Grove in the context of state anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss. This Note then proposes a more nuanced, two-pronged interpretation for determining the applicability of state laws in federal courts. Applying this interpretation, this Note argues that state anti-SLAPP special motions to dismiss should apply in federal courts.