Monday, May 5, 2014
Judge Properly Granted TMZ’s Anti-SLAPP—C.A.
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district on Friday upheld the granting of an anti-SLAPP motion filed by the production company for TMZ.com in response to a libel action by a homeless man, and declared the plaintiff a vexatious litigant.
Presiding Justice Joan Dempsey Klein of Div. Three wrote the opinion, which was not certified for publication. It affirms an action by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Debre K. Weintraub.
The plaintiff, Phil Sparks, sued TMZ over its report that singer/actress Sheryl Crow was seeking a restraining order against him, and its report that she and movie mogul Harvey Weinstein had obtained such an order. In separate actions, he also sued other media outlets, including the Associated Press and CBS.
TMZ reported that Crow and Weinstein claimed that Sparks had made threats to shoot them. Sparks contended in his libel action against TMZ that he had uttered no such threats.
Klein said that TMZ “met its threshold burden to show Sparks’s lawsuit arose out of TMZ’s protected activity, so as to implicate the anti-SLAPP statute,” and that Sparks failed to show a likelihood he would prevail at trial. The jurist wrote:
“Civil Code section 47, subdivision (d), confers an absolute privilege on any fair and true report in, or a communication to, a public journal of a judicial proceeding, or anything said in the course thereof….
“Because the articles published by TMZ are privileged as a fair and true report of the allegations made by Crow and Weinstein, Sparks failed to show a probability of prevailing on the merits of his claims.
“Therefore, the trial court properly granted TMZ’s special motion to strike.”
Klein noted that court records show that “in the preceding seven years, Sparks has prosecuted in propria persona at least five civil actions which have been finally determined adversely to him,” and declared him a vexatious litigant.” She noted that he “therefore is prohibited from filing any new litigation in the courts of this state without first obtaining leave of the presiding judge of the court where the litigation is proposed to be filed.”
Sparks represented himself on appeal and Jason Beckerman acted for TMZ.
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