Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary Strobel denied an anti-SLAPP motion brought by attorney Martin Singer, finding that a demand letter sent by Singer was not protected speech.
As you can see from the letter, Singer threatened to file a complaint “dealing with your using company resources to arrange [redacted] liaisons with [names redacted] (see enclosed photo) . . . .” The defendant took exception with this threat, and filed his own action against Singer for Civil Extortion.
As would be expected, Singer brought an anti-SLAPP motion since under normal circumstances an attorney’s demand letter would fall under the Litigation Privilege and would be protected speech.
But not so fast. In 2006 the California Supreme Court held in Flatly v. Mauro that the SLAPP statute does not protect extortion, and that case also involved an attorney demand letter. Singer’s letter closely tracked the same points that the Supreme Court in Flatly held stepped over the line. Like the demand letter in Flatly, the Singer letter threatened exposure of sexual conduct (to the point of including a photo) and made reference to taxing authorities (thereby implying that if the defendant does not pay he will be turned over to the IRS). On that basis, the court ruled that “the activities giving rise to the claims in the Complaint are illegal as a matter of law as extortion, and as allegations of illegal wiretapping . . . .”
MOTION DENIED. No doubt Singer will utilize the automatic appeal process written into the anti-SLAPP statute, but if the court follows Flatly, the appeal will be unsuccessful. Unless the case somehow settles, Singer will have the opportunity to explain his actions to a jury.