First SLAPP Challenge in Hawai'i Courts

In 2004, the president of a Hawaiian taxi company and 2004 Hawaii Small Business Person of the Year, Dale Evans, asked state officials to investigate reports of misconduct and possible illegal activities engaged in by another taxi company. Based on her assertion, the Hawaii Attorney General opened an investigation, found some minor wrongdoing and corrected the problems on site.

The rival company responded by suing Evans for defamation based on the letter she sent to State officials. Evans moved to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that it violated federal and state constitutional rights to petition the government for redress of grievances.

The trial court rejected the defense, holding the proper forum to decide the issue was the Supreme Court. Local advocacy groups argued that the delay was unjustified and only furthered the harm of the SLAPP. When the trial court did finally determine the merits of the case, Higa v. Evans, the judge called the lawsuit one of the most “frivolous” she’d seen, noting the plaintiff didn’t even show up to the trial, and agreed that Evans’ statements were protected.

Read more here.