In an April 7, 2022 Vulture article, Co-Managing Partner Ryan Baker addressed the upcoming Depp v. Heard Virginia trial: “In my opinion, if this case were brought in California, I think it would be dead on arrival.” California’s strict anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) law allows a defendant to seek early dismissal of litigation arising from certain forms of protected speech; under California’s anti-SLAPP law, a fee award to a party prevailing on an anti-SLAPP motion is mandatory. Although Virginia has an anti-SLAPP statute that mirrors California in some ways, the impact of the Virginia statute is greatly reduced by critical differences. For instance, Virginia does not provide a defendant with a mechanism to test an anti-SLAPP defense early in the case. In addition, under Virginia law, a fee award is permissive and not mandatory. These differences significantly reduce the deterrent value of Virginia’s anti-SLAPP law.
“In California, this gets shot down right out of the gate,” Baker said. “In Virginia, you don’t have this early procedural opportunity to shut the case and freeze it.”
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