In a victory for protester rights, the Los Angeles Superior Court recently dismissed a lawsuit brought by Pico Rivera cow slaughterhouse Manning Beef against activists who hold vigils outside of its slaughter facility.
Animal rights activists operating under the name Los Angeles Cow Save hold vigils outside of Manning Beef, displaying signs, lighting small candles, and, when transport trucks arrive carrying cows, photographing and videotaping the cows' conditions. Manning Beef repeatedly called the police and demanded they arrest the demonstrators, while the police affirmed the activists' right to protest.
Manning Beef then sued the protesters.
My office, along with the Animal Legal Defense Fund and Ryan Gordon of Advancing Law for Animals, asked the court to throw out the lawsuit under California's anti-SLAPP statute. SLAPP is an acronym for a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation--an action usually filed by a wealthy person or corporation seeking to silence (usually poor) critics by putting them through the costs of mounting a legal defense. Anti-SLAPP statutes are state laws that allow for early dismissal of such lawsuits and impose monetary consequences on the plaintiff.
Finding that the slaughterhouse was essentially trying to use a lawsuit to control a demonstration that law enforcement determined was lawful, the court granted our motion in full. “There is no act attributed to [Los Angles Cow Save],” the court ruled, “to be enjoined since its actions were totally protected with respect to [Los Angeles Cow Save’s] call to protest on the public/quasi public street and sidewalk in issue.”
My office focuses on defending cases brought by belligerent millionaires against activists for exercising their First Amendment rights. If you find yourself or the people who you organize with facing such a lawsuit, contact me.