Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Thomas v. Fry's Electronics (9th Cir. - March 15, 2005)

Come on, guys. You have to do a little more work than this.

Judge Whalen held below that California's anti-SLAPP provisions don't apply in federal court because they are inconsistent with federal notice pleading standards and hence invalid under the Supreme Court's (relatively recent) opinion in Swierkiewicz. The panel here -- Nelson, Silverman, and Tallman -- responds with a perfunctory three-paragraph per curiam opinion which, in essence, simply states: "No, they're not."

It's not that I disagree with the result reached by the panel. I don't. I think they got it right. And it's also not that I dislike short opinions. Far from it. But Jude Whalen is not some insane district court judge flying off the deep end and doing something obviously wrong. If that's were case, then by all means, I'd see why the panel would want to give him a perfunctory spanking and simply say "Reversed." But that's just not true here. Judge Whalen is smart and hardworking. Moreover, it's a complicated issue, and there are real arguments on both sides. For the panel to issue a published opinion whose analysis is contained entirely in two sentences is, in my view, inappropriate. Particularly given both the importance of the issue and the fact that it is one on which reasonable minds might -- indeed, do -- disagree.

Adding insult to injury, the panel not only issues a perfunctory per curiam, but does so a mere seven days after the case was submitted. And also decided the case entirely without oral argument.

Just getting the right result isn't always enough. The issue -- and the parties -- deserved more respect than was displayed by the panel.