To combat lawsuits designed to chill the exercise of free speech and petition rights (typically known as strategic lawsuits against public participation, or SLAPPs), the Legislature has authorized a special motion to strike claims that are based on a defendant‘s engagement in such protected activity. (See Code Civ. Proc., § 425.16, subd. (a).)1 We consider a question that has generated uncertainty in the Courts of Appeal: What nexus must a defendant show between a challenged claim and the defendant‘s protected activity for the claim to be struck?
As we explain, a claim is not subject to a motion to strike simply because it contests an action or decision that was arrived at following speech or petitioning activity, or that was thereafter communicated by means of speech or petitioning activity. Rather, a claim may be struck only if the speech or petitioning activity itself is the wrong complained of, and not just evidence of liability or a step leading to some different act for which liability is asserted. Because the Court of Appeal ruled to the contrary, holding a claim alleging a discriminatory decision is subject to a motion to strike so long as protected speech or petitioning activity contributed to that decision, we reverse.[5/5 update: See in the DJ, Cal State anti-SLAPP motion overturned; in the MetNews S.C. Takes Restrictive View of Anti-SLAPP Law: Says Motion Must Be Directly Hinged to Speech or Petitioning Activity; Communications Leading Up to Denial of Tenure Won’t Suffice]