Wargo French partners Stacey Godfrey Evans and Jeff Williams recently secured a win for client Federal Title & Escrow Company in the D.C. Court of Appeals. The case involved questions of first impression regarding the scope and applicability of the anti-SLAPP statute in the District of Columbia. Specifically, in ruling for Federal Title, the court held that a defendant’s statements are not automatically deemed to relate to an “issue of public interest” simply because they may relate to a pending lawsuit, and that language in the statute suggesting that public issues may encompass those “under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body” must give way to more specific language elsewhere in the statute offering a more constrained definition. Federal Title’s claim for tortious interference was therefore reinstated and the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees to the defendant was completely wiped out. Stacey was quoted in a Reuters article describing the decision:
The anti-SLAPP statute is meant to be used only for public controversies and issues, not private disputes, said Stacey Evans, a partner at Wargo French who is representing Federal Title. Evans compared D.C.'s anti-SLAPP statute to a "runaway train." "Allowing summary dismissal and an award of fees against plaintiffs for simply daring to seek redress in our court system to right wrongs in private disputes is the antithesis of how our system of justice should work," Evans said.