Renfrew LawRenfrew Law


We are a very small high tech boutique practice emphasizing anti-SLAPP and SLAPP-BACK / malicious prosecution litigation at both the trial and appellate court levels.

SLAPP is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”, in other words, a lawsuit brought to chill, or in retaliation for, the exercise of First Amendment rights of free speech or petition. Such lawsuits may include, most obviously, suits for alleged libel or slander. Increasingly, however, such suits are disguised as business tort or similar claims. For example, the first published opinion under California’s anti-SLAPP statute was Wilcox v. Superior Court (Second Dist., 1994) 27 Cal. App. 4th 809 [33 Cal.Rptr.2d 446] - a case in which we were counsel for the prevailing petitioner - where the claims against Wilcox had been cast primarily in terms of alleged anti-trust and unfair competition violations. Many litigants and their counsel are misled by the apparent nature of claims asserted, and thus may fail to appreciate the applicability of California’s anti-SLAPP statute, and the availability of the powerful remedy it affords. For more information concerning SLAPP law, visit our SLAPP|LAW pages, which may be accessed through our SLAPP|LAW link.

Our philosophy differs markedly from that of some practices which focus on anti-SLAPP law, and which will undertake the defense of SLAPPs only as “special counsel” for purposes of litigating anti-SLAPP motions. While we aggressively pursue available anti-SLAPP remedies, we do not believe that should be done to the neglect of other defensive strategies which often must be undertaken, or for which the groundwork must be laid, at early stages of the case. In short, we do not subscribe to the “all eggs in one basket” approach. Consequently, we appear not as “special” but rather as all-purpose counsel when defending our clients against SLAPPs.

Additional remedies, usually in the form of a later action for malicious prosecution action, may be available to parties who have been wrongfully sued, whether or not the original suit constituted a SLAPP. (Where the original action did constitute a SLAPP, an ensuing malicious prosecution action is often colloquially referred to as a “SLAPP-BACK”.) A plaintiff who brings a malicious prosecution action must demonstrate that the earlier action was wrongful, i.e., that the earlier action terminated in his or her favor, was prosecuted without probable cause, and with malice or some improper purpose. Somewhat ironically, a party who brings a malicious prosecution action will often find it necessary to defend against an anti-SLAPP motion brought by the malicious prosecution defendant. For more information concerning SLAPP-BACKS and malicious prosecution in general, visit our SLAPPBACK pages, which may be accessed through our SLAPPBACK|LAW link.

Both SLAPP and malicious prosecution law can be extremely demanding - particularly, as is increasingly the case, when the two intersect - yet are often attempted by counsel with little background or experience in those fields. These two areas, however, are the primary focus of our practice.

We also provide representation in other selected trial court and appellate matters, including extraordinary writ proceedings, most often involving constitutional or complex business issues. Examples of opinions in appellate proceedings in which we served as counsel may be accessed through our DOWNLOADS link.

We accept very few cases, and litigate those intensively. Our acceptance of a case is often motivated by our particular interest or expertise in the subject matter. For example, we are deeply involved in litigation concerning the exercise of First Amendment rights in the form of Internet postings, which has lately generated the growing phenomenon of SLAPPs by corporate interests seeking to silence their Internet critics. Restriction of the number of cases we accept is also dictated by our determination not to permit work volume to defeat the kind of intensive attention to each case for which we are known. Finally, although we do make exceptions, we prefer to take only cases pending in the County of Los Angeles. For these reasons, our rejection of a particular case [which occurs with the vast majority of cases brought to us] by no means necessarily reflects a judgment that the position of the party seeking our representation is without merit.

Even though we accept few cases, we are nevertheless interested in collecting information concerning cases believed to be SLAPPs, or believed to have been maliciously prosecuted. If you are involved in such a proceeding and are willing to share your information with us (whether or not you seek our representation), you may access forms for doing so through our SLAPP|REPORT or SLAPPBACK|REPORT links. The information you provide may be posted on this site, and thus may be helpful to others who find themselves in similar situations, as well as to those who merely wish to learn more about the subject matter.

We seek, in our linked pages, to provide some extremely basic general information which may be of assistance in increasing the awareness of members of the public about these areas of law. The information presented is not intended as legal advice, since the subtleties and nuances of each individual case require careful and specific analysis by competent counsel. Much less, of course, are these pages intended as a “how to” for lay persons representing themselves, or even for counsel planning their earliest forays into these complex areas. In other words: “Don’t try this at home”. We hope these pages will prove useful, however, in increasing the likelihood that readers will recognize (or at least suspect) a SLAPP when they see it, however artfully disguised, and in increasing the likelihood that victims of maliciously prosecuted and often potentially ruinous lawsuits will recognize that they are not without protection and redress. To this end, we have included collected news articles and materials which you may access through the SLAPP|WIRE and SLAPPBACK|WIRE links, found, respectively, on our SLAPP and SLAPPBACK pages.

What we notably do not attempt to do here is to collect all appellate decisions on anti-SLAPP and malicious prosecution law. With respect to the collection of anti-SLAPP opinions, there appears no reason to duplicate the excellent archive provided by our good friends at the California anti-SLAPP project, which you may access through our ANTI-SLAPP OPINION ARCHIVE link.

In reading these pages, please bear in mind that we are admitted to practice only in the State Courts of California [in addition to a number of Federal jurisdictions and the United States Supreme Court], and thus approach our subject matter from the standpoint of California law. Available remedies and statutes may vary markedly in other jurisdictions.

All of that said, we hope you will find these pages both interesting and useful.

March 19, 2004 | Permalink | Comments (0)