When an award-winning news producer was fired from his job at CNN, the company claimed it was due to plagiarism. The former employee filed a lawsuit saying that reason was pretextual and he was a victim of racial discrimination and retaliation. CNN fired back that the case should be dropped because to decide otherwise would be a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights under anti-SLAPP laws. That motion was initially granted. The case was appealed up to the California Supreme Court, which ruled last year the claim might be subject to dismissal under the state’s anti-SLAPP law – specifically the company’s right to exercise editorial control over its news content. However, the case was remanded to determine if plaintiff’s underlying claim had merit enough to proceed in spite of that concern.
Now, a California appellate court has ruled in Wilson v. CNN that plaintiff’s claim has the minimal amount of merit to proceed. The case now proceeds to trial.
As our Los Angeles racial discrimination attorneys can explain, anti-SLAPP laws are intended to dismiss early on lawsuits without merit when they are filed against persons or organizations for the exercise of First Amendment rights (freedom of speech, the press, religion, peaceable assembly and to petition the government for redress of grievances). SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. Anti-SLAPP laws were passed in response to a trend of lawsuits filed in retaliation to intimidate or silence critics and opponents who speak out publicly. In a lot of those cases, the underlying legal theories (tortious interference, defamation, etc.) were actually secondary to the true intent, which was to silence public opposition. Continue reading