29 Cal.4th 69, S099999, City of Cotati v. Cashman

Docket Nº:S099999
Citation:29 Cal.4th 69, 124 Cal.Rptr.2d 519, 52 P.3d 695
Party Name:City of Cotati v. Cashman
Case Date:August 29, 2002
Court:Supreme Court of California
 
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Page 69

29 Cal.4th 69

124 Cal.Rptr.2d 519, 52 P.3d 695

CITY OF COTATI, Plaintiff and Appellant,

v.

GENE CASHMAN et al., Defendants and Respondents.

S099999.

Supreme Court of California

August 29, 2002

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Endeman, Lincoln, Turek & Heater, Donald R. Lincoln, Henry E. Heater. Linda B. Reich; Walter & Pistole and Jeffrey A. Walter for Plaintiff and Appellant.

Pacific Legal Foundation, R. S. Radford, Meriem L. Hubbard and Harold E. Johnson for Defendants and Respondents.

Law Office of James J. Moneer and James J. Moneer as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendants and Respondents.

Levy, Ram, Olson & Rossi, Karl Olson; Karlene W. Goller; Harold W. Fuson, Jr.; and Thomas W. Newton for California Newspaper Publishers Association, Los Angeles Times and Copley Press, Inc., as Amici Curiae.

OPINION

WERDEGAR, J.—

We must decide in this case whether a municipality's state court action for declaratory relief respecting the constitutionality of a mobilehome park rent stabilization ordinance, filed in response to a federal court declaratory relief action brought by park owners respecting the same ordinance, constitutes a strategic lawsuit against public participation

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(SLAPP)1 within the purview of Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (section 425.16; the anti-SLAPP statute). We conclude it does not.2

Background

In 1998, the City of Cotati (City) adopted a mobilehome park rent stabilization program. (Cotati Ord. No. 680, adding ch. 19.14 to Cotati Mun. Code.) After City enacted the program, Gene Cashman and others, owners of mobilehome parks (collectively Owners), sued City in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Owners sought declaratory relief, an injunction, and damages allegedly resulting from City's ordinance. In requesting a declaratory judgment, Owners alleged that "the following question [is] in actual controversy between the parties: Whether [City] effects an uncompensated regulatory taking by implementing and enforcing the rent-restriction Ordinance, in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution."

Subsequently, City sued Owners in Sonoma County Superior Court. City's complaint outlined a cause of action for declaratory relief. City alleged that "An actual controversy has arisen and now exists between [City] and [Owners] relative to their respective rights and duties in that [City] contends that the [mobilehome park rent stabilization] ordinance and resolution are valid and enforceable, both on their face and as construed by [City]. On the other hand, [Owners] contend that said ordinance, on its face is unenforceable, invalid, and void as effecting an unconstitutional taking ...." On information and belief, City also alleged that Owners contended the ordinance effected a taking in violation of the California Constitution. City sought a judgment "declaring the respective rights and duties of the parties under the ordinance in question and that the ordinance is constitutional, valid, and enforceable on its face and as applied to [Owners]." After the state court action was filed, City filed a motion in federal court asking that Owners' action be dismissed on abstention grounds. (Younger v. Harris (1971) 401 U.S. 37 [91 S.Ct. 746, 27 L.Ed.2d 669].)

Owners shortly thereafter moved in state court, under the anti-SLAPP statute, to strike City's complaint. Owners argued that City's filing of its

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state court action arose from Owners' filing of their earlier federal action and, therefore, fell within the ambit of the anti-SLAPP statute. As evidence that City's state court action was a SLAPP, Owners pointed to references in City's complaint to Owners' contention in the federal action that City's ordinance constituted a taking.

City concedes that its purpose in filing the state court action was to gain a more favorable forum in which to litigate the constitutionality of its mobilehome park rent stabilization ordinance. Certain potentially applicable state law decisions on mobilehome park rent regulation, City notes, were favorable to its position in the underlying dispute. (See Montclair Parkowners Assn. v. City of Montclair (1999) 76 Cal.App.4th 784 [90 Cal.Rptr.2d 598]; Sandpiper Mobile Village v. City of Carpinteria (1992) 10 Cal.App.4th 542 [12 Cal.Rptr.2d 623].) City also concedes that in filing the state court action it intended subsequently to seek to persuade the federal court to abstain from hearing Owners' suit.

The trial court ruled in favor of Owners on the anti-SLAPP motion. Noting that City's action was filed shortly after Owners' federal action, involved "the exact contention" made by Owners therein, and named only Owners as defendants, the trial court concluded Owners had, at the outset, carried their burden to show that the action "arose out of [Owners'] right of petition under the U.S. Constitution as defined in [section 425.16]." (See § 425.16, subd. (b) (1).) Having concluded that Owners had carried their initial burden, the trial court considered whether City had demonstrated a probability of prevailing on its claim. Concluding City had not, the trial court granted Owners' anti-SLAPP motion and ordered City's action dismissed. The Court of Appeal reversed. We granted Owners' petition for review.

Discussion

Section 425.16 provides, inter alia, that "A cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim." (Id., subd. (b) (1).) "As used in this section, 'act in furtherance of a person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue' includes: (1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law; (2) any written or oral statement

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or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law ...." (Id., subd. (e).)

Owners in their petition asked us to address two issues—whether a defendant in order to prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion must demonstrate that the targeted action was intended to chill the defendant's free speech or petition rights; and whether a moving defendant must show that the action had the effect of chilling such rights. We conclude that defendants moving under the anti-SLAPP statute have neither burden. Nevertheless, because City's action arose from the underlying controversy respecting the validity of City's ordinance rather than from Owners' federal lawsuit, we further conclude that City's action was not subject to a special motion to strike under section 425.16...

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