Mandell Menkes recently successfully sought dismissal of claims of defamation and false-light invasion of privacy by asserting immunity under Illinois’s anti-SLAPP statute, the Citizen Participation Act (CPA). In Satkar Hospitality Inc. v. Cook County Board of Review, No. 10‑cv‑6682 (N.D. Ill. Sept. 21, 2011), the plaintiffs, who own a suburban hotel, claimed that WFLD, Chicago’s Fox television station, defamed them by reporting on a possible connection between campaign donations to a state representative and favorable results in property tax appeals. The plaintiffs had appealed their property tax assessment and received a substantial savings. After WFLD ran its report, the Cook County Board of Review held additional hearings and rescinded the plaintiffs’ tax reduction.
Mandell Menkes, representing WFLD, argued that WFLD’s reports were immune from liability under the CPA. The CPA provides broad immunity for “acts in furtherance of the constitutional rights to petition, speech, association, and participation in government,” “regardless of intent or purpose,” and requires that courts award attorneys’ fees to a party that wins dismissal.
Judge Matthew Kennelly granted WFLD’s motion to dismiss under the CPA. He rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the CPA is unconstitutional. He found that the plaintiffs’ complaint was clearly based on WFLD’s reports, which “were directed at the public and addressed possible political corruption, an obvious matter of public concern,” and “were acts in furtherance of” WFLD’s “right to speak freely.” The court rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the CPA should not protect “major media organizations” or defendants who are motivated by profit. The court further held that the CPA applies because “objective persons in defendants’ shoes could have reasonably expected to procure a favorable government outcome by publishing the reports,” and it rejected the plaintiffs’ argument that the CPA requires that the moving party “reached out directly to a government entity.”
Mandell Menkes attorneys Steve Mandell, Steve Baron, and Shari Albrecht represent WFLD (and related entities and individuals who were also named as defendants).