Taheri Law Group v. Evans, 160 Cal.App.4th 482, 72 Cal.Rptr.3d 847 (2008)
Brief SummaryA case brought by a law firm that sued a competing lawyer for stealing a client was held subject to the California anti-SLAPP statute.
Complete SummaryDr. Sorokurs retained plaintiff Taheri Law Group (“Taheri”) for multiple matters. While some of these matters were still pending, Sorokurs switched lawyers, retaining attorney-defendant Neil Evans in place of Taheri. Taheri then sued Evans for interference with economic relations, claiming that Evans had encouraged the switch at a time when Sorokurs owed Taheri $500,000. Evans countered that his actions were protected under the anti-SLAPP statute. When the Superior Court held for Evans, Taheri appealed.
The appellate court held that Taheri’s cause of action arose from activity protected by the First Amendment and was therefore subject to an anti-SLAPP motion. Taheri argued that solicitation of clients is not protected litigation activity, but the court noted that the litigation privilege is often applied to pre-litigation communications and held that Evans’s communications with Sorokurs were protected. The court also noted that if the commercial speech exception to the anti-SLAPP statute included legal advice on pending matters, a client’s fundamental right of access to courts and right to choose counsel could be thwarted. The court noted, however, that in the absence of individualized legal advice, a lawyer’s commercial speech could fall under the commercial speech exemption from the anti-SLAPP statute. One example would be a firm’s “massive advertising campaign.” Id. at 492.
Because the anti-SLAPP statute applied, Taheri had to demonstrate a probability of prevailing, but he failed to produce any probative evidence. Nonetheless, the trial court overturned the award of attorney fees to Evans because Evans had represented himself.
Significance of OpinionOn the facts of this case, the court did not find it necessary to decide what would happen if Evans had unethically and improperly solicited Sorokurs. This opinion therefore leaves open the question whether such conduct would have changed the outcome.
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Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP and The Hildebrandt Institute Present: The Final Virtual Seminar in a Three-Part Law Firm Risk Management Seminar Series
Impaired and Poorly Behaving Partners: Managing the RisksJuly 16, 2008, Noon-1:30 pm EST
SpeakersThomas L. Browne, Lawyers for the Profession® Practice Group, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLPTom H. Luetkemeyer, Lawyers for the Profession® Practice Group, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLPDr. Larry R. Richard, Vice President and Head of the Leadership & Organization Development Practice Group, Hildebrandt International
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