WA Supreme Court rules anti-SLAPP statute violates right to trial by jury

WSAJ filed an amicus brief in Davis v. Cox, a case the Washington state Supreme Court decided last week. As the Washington Post reported:

The Washington anti-SLAPP statute allowed defendants in many libel cases — and other speech-based cases — to get cases thrown out early, unless the plaintiff could show “a probability of prevailing on the claim” by “clear and convincing evidence.” This clear-and-convincing-evidence standard, the court held in today’s Davis v. Cox decision, violated the Washington Constitution’s civil jury trial right. …Those anti-SLAPP statutes essentially let courts decide whether plaintiff, even given his version of the facts, must lose as a matter of law; if so, then the case can be dismissed promptly (and, in many states, with the losing plaintiff having to pay the defendant’s attorney fees).

As The Seattle Times said, “In a unanimous opinion Thursday the court said the law, enacted by the Legislature in 2010, violates the right to a trial by jury because it requires judges, not juries, to make determinations about the disputed facts of a case.”

Justice Debra Stephens wrote, “[I]t seeks to protect one group of citizen’s constitutional rights of expression and petition — by cutting off another group’s constitutional rights of petition and jury trial. This the Legislature cannot do.”

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