Can filing a petition for a restraining order subject you to the risk of an anti-SLAPP motion?

Every day in countless courts in Los Angeles and elsewhere in California, people are filing petitions to enjoin harassment, whether for domestic violence, internet harassment, or stalking. But while Code of Civil Procedure 527.6 was meant to be a summary procedure, what few realize is that filing a petition for harassment may subject the filer to an anti-SLAPP motion, and thus attorneys’ fees.

In a case several years back, a landlord filed a petition to enjoin defendant and others from demonstrating and leafletting against landlord’s practices as a landlord of multiple rental units. Defendant filed an anti-SLAPP motion and the trial court found that the anti-SLAPP procedure was not applicable to petitions seeking relief under 527.6. But the First District Court of Appeal disagreed, reversing the decision, not only finding that defendant’s activities were protected under the first prong of the SLAPP statute, but also ruling that petitioner was unable to show a probability of prevailing on the merits.

While not applicable to every petition for harassment, it is clear that the anti-SLAPP procedure is a trap for the unwary in this context. Few attorneys are even aware of this. For this reason, it is important that you contact an experienced restraining order attorney who is knowledgeable in the anti-SLAPP area.

 

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