Case Did Not Involve Brown Act Open Meeting Issues, So Fee Grant Did Not Fall Within Narrow Exemption.
Here is a wild one, at least the facts. The grant of fees to the prevailing SLAPP defendant was another matter, an award affirmed by the appellate court in Tri-City Healthcare District v. Sterling, Case Nos. D060431/D061265 (4th Dist., Div. 1 Dec. 11, 2012) (unpublished).
In Sterling, plaintiffs public healthcare district (and one of its representatives, given the district has a Board) suffered a SLAPP grant defeat to defendant Sterling, who was a publicly elected Board member allegedly making “disrespectful” comments to the Board such as “You’re a bunch of F-ers” and “You are Nazi.” The plaintiffs alleged some trespass, assault, battery and business dilution claims against Sterling, and they lost a SLAPP motion to the defense. The lower court granted prevailing defense fees to Sterling in the amount of $29,026 under the mandatory SLAPP fee-shifting statute.
On appeal, the defense had a sole argument: defendant was not entitled to fees because she was alleging claims under the Brown Act, a pro open meeting statute that is an express exemption from SLAPP fee recovery.
No dice, said the Court of Appeal. None of the trespass or business dilution claims related to open meeting issues, but instead alleged that defendant should be enjoined from entering into the Board meeting room at all times. No Brown Act claim was alleged, so that the exemption did not apply. Merits and fee rulings affirmed.