Appealing Parties Could Not Surmount Abuse of Discretion Standard on Second SLAPP Fee Award.
In Graham-Sult v. Clainos, Case No. 11-16779 (9th Cir. Feb. 5, 2014) (published), one defendants obtained a SLAPP fee recovery of $126,431.50 (out of a requested $133,431.50) and a second group of defendants obtained a SLAPP fee recovery of $248,506 (out of a requested $260,506.50) plus “fees on fees.” Another group of defendants received a $134,243.25 fee recovery (out of a requested $177,366.50 in fees, inclusive of $43,123.50 in “fees on fees”) for successfully obtaining a dismissal of a copyright claim, with fees awarded under the 15 U.S.C. § 505 fee-shifting statute.
The Ninth Circuit vacated the first SLAPP award and copyright fee award based on reversing the merit rulings.
However, the federal appeals court affirmed the second SLAPP fee award, because appealing parties could not hurdle the deferential abuse of discretion review standard. The argument that the fee award was unreasonable as compared to SLAPP fee awards in other cases was not a singular basis to reverse a fee award. Appellants also argued that the fee request included time for non-SLAPP activities, but the reviewing court took a liberal view of the SLAPP fee-shifting statute—finding it should encompass all activities when a district court, like here, concluded the lawsuit was baseless as to the successfully SLAPPing defendants.