Thursday, March 08, 2007

Dyer v. Childress (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 26, 2007)


Finally, someone in the California judiciary who understands -- and who's not afraid to hold -- that not every movie filmed in La-La Land has such a profound message and importance that it thereby concerns an "issue of public importance" and hence is subject to an anti-SLAPP motion to strike in any litigation thereover. Even when, as here, the movie (Reality Bites) involves the most pressing public issue of our time: The various concerns of slacker rebels in Generation X.

Okay, okay. Truthfully, Justice Klein's holding is a little more narrow, and (entirely properly) holds that even if the film itself does address a public issue, the particular cause of action at issue in the litigation -- allegedly defaming Troy Dyer and portraying him in an actionable false light -- doesn't itself concern a public issue and hence doesn't give rise to an anti-SLAPP motion. True. And Justice Klein states as much in a sharp, succinct, and crisp opinion.

Good news for SLAPP jurisprudence. And also exciting news for Reality Bites fans. Apparently the character Troy Dyer in the movie is based on a real person. Except that the real Troy Dyer is apparently entirely opposite to the Troy Dyer depicted in the movie. Oops.

I'm not saying that Dyer's should win his lawsuit. In fact, I think he won't, and don't think that a jury's likely to be massively sympathetic with his claims.

But I also think that Justice Klein is entirely right that an anti-SLAPP motion is inapposite here. So even if Dyer probably won't prevail at trial, he shouldn't have to pay the other side's attorney fees either.