The final oral arguments in this case will be held today.
A ruling is expected soon thereafter.
My prayers are with Alex, Tim Taylor, and their families.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Calvary Chapel pastor and accused child molester, Rev. Bob Grenier and attorney to appear before the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno, California, for oral arguments in landmark Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) wherein victims are requesting relief from the Appellate Court in an effort not to be silenced and intimidated by the accused.
FRESNO, California (January 25, 2015) – Long-time, Senior Pastor of Calvary Chapel Visalia, Rev. Bob Grenier (plaintiff), and appellate attorney, Todd W. Baxter, and Alex Grenier (defendant), and appellate attorney, Mark Goldowitz, (California Anti-SLAPP Project), will appear for oral arguments at the 5th District Court of Appeals in Fresno, California, on Wednesday, January 28th at 9:00 a.m.
Goldowitz has specialized in First Amendment and anti-SLAPP issues since 1993, and has written and lectured widely on the California anti-SLAPP law. He is a 1972 graduate of Harvard Law School and a member of the California Bar. Nine of the cases that Goldowitz prevailed in are published appellate opinions, including the first such opinion by the California Supreme Court. In addition, his status as an expert in anti-SLAPP law has been recognized in four appellate opinions.
Defendant Alex Grenier was sued for defamation of character, slander and libel by plaintiff Rev. Bob Grenier for speaking out and blogging about the physical child abuse he suffered as well as his brothers, Geoffrey Grenier and Paul Grenier. In addition to the physical child abuse, Paul Grenier, not a party in the suit, submitted a declaration in the lower court, under penalty of perjury regarding the sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of Rev. Grenier.
Alex Grenier says, “The issue of physical, mental and sexual child abuse related to victims who were abused by persons in positions of leadership and authority is an issue our society cannot turn a blind eye to. As a victim of such crimes, I will advocate for the rights of other victims to share their stories in a forum where they feel they can adequately dialogue regarding the tremendous weight of the abuse they have carried with them for years. Furthermore, the issue at hand in this particular case is that any victim is well within their 1st Amendment right to exercise free speech in any forum they choose to do so. Victims of abuse at the hands of people in power shall no longer be silenced, yet given a voice to tell their story in an effort to help others heal.”
A strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.
Paul Grenier says, “While I am not a party to this suit, I will not stand by and let my brother, Alex Grenier, stand alone in this matter. The declaration I submitted in the lower court regarding the physical and sexual abuse I suffered at the hands of Rev. Grenier speaks in detail for itself. For many years I did not have the courage to speak out as I felt I had no voice and recourse for justice. In particular, this case deals with a person, Rev. Grenier, in an absolute position of power and authority to abuse his victims. I believe anyone who has been abused is constitutionally protected to speak out about their experience. Incendiary and fear based lawsuits brought against victims as is the case at hand, is nothing more than an attempt by Rev. Grenier to try and victimize the abused all over again. My advice to any victim of abuse would be to speak your mind even if your voice shakes.”
The typical SLAPP plaintiff does not normally expect to win the lawsuit. The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism. A SLAPP is often preceded by a legal threat. The difficulty is that plaintiff (Rev. Bob Grenier) does not present himself to the Court admitting that his intent is to censor, intimidate or silence his victims. Hence, the difficulty in drafting SLAPP legislation, and in applying it, is to craft an approach which affords an early termination to invalid abusive suits, without denying a legitimate day in court to valid good faith claims.
The U.S. state of California enacted Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16 in 1992, a statute intended to frustrate SLAPPs by providing a quick and inexpensive defense. It provides for a special motion that a defendant can file at the outset of a lawsuit to strike a complaint when it arises from conduct that falls within the rights of petition or free speech. The statute expressly applies to any writing or speech made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law, but there is no requirement that the writing or speech be promulgated directly to the official body. It also applies to speech in a public forum about an issue of public interest and to any other petition or speech conduct about an issue of public interest.
To win an anti-SLAPP motion, the defendant must first show that the lawsuit is based on claims related to constitutionally protected activities, typically First Amendment rights such as free speech, and typically seeks to show that the claim lacks any basis of genuine substance, legal underpinnings, evidence, or prospect of success. If this is demonstrated then the burden shifts to the plaintiff, to affirmatively present evidence demonstrating a reasonable probability of succeeding in their case by showing an actual wrong would exist as recognized by law, if the facts claimed were borne out.
The filing of an anti-SLAPP motion stays all discovery. This feature acts to greatly reduce the cost of litigation to the anti-SLAPP defendant, and can make beating the motion extremely difficult for the plaintiff, because they effectively must prove their case has at least a basis of visible legal merit and is not merely vexatious, prior to discovery.
If the special motion is denied, the order denying the motion is immediately appealable. Defendants prevailing on an anti-SLAPP motion (including any subsequent appeal) are entitled to a mandatory award of reasonable attorney’s fees. After an anti-SLAPP motion has been filed, a plaintiff cannot escape this mandatory fee award by amending its complaint. More than 300 published court opinions have interpreted and applied California’s anti-SLAPP law.