Wednesday, June 8, 2011

California Appeals Court Backs Talk Radio Yakker's Anti-Slapp Defense to Libel Claim

Steve Yuhas. Saw Steve at the Leatherneck Muse...Image via WikipediaIn Michael J. Rood v. Steve Yuhas (Case No. D056840), an appellate panel of California's Court of Appeal Fourth Appellate District Division One unanimously held that a talk radio commentator was shielded from a libel claim by a former school principal by the state's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute [CCP sec. 425.16].

In 2008, former principal Rood sued talk radio commentator Yuhas of A.M. 600 KOGO after the latter reported on an alleged audit involving whether Rood had used school resources to solicit ads for a gay magazine. Yuhas considered the publication at issue pornographic, and voiced his opposition to the principal's alleged conduct after confirming the existence of the inquiry and interviewing school district officials, among other background research.

Yuhas invoked the anti-SLAPP law, which protects journalists who provide a "fair and true report" of legislative, judicial or other official proceedings. Rood contended the audit did not constitute such a proceeding or investigation implicating the statute, thereby exposing Yuhas to personal liability, but the appellate court disagreed.

Pursuant to California law, the appellate panel concluded, "the record adequately supports Yuhas's claims that he was given facially reliable information, investigated and learned of an official District proceeding that involved Rood, sufficient to assert these privileges."

Rood had appealed a trial court's dismissal of the gist of his libel suit based on the anti-SLAPP defense.

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