Landlord Suit Against Housing Rights Organization Dismissed as SLAPP

In 1990, the California housing rights organization Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO) assisted an African-American woman in filing a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and in prosecuting a small claims court action against her landlords.

HUD exonerated the landlords, but the tenant prevailed in small claims court. The landlords then filed suit against ECHO, alleging defamation and infliction of emotional distress from comments ECHO made during HUD’s investigation, including referring to one landlord as a “racist,” and a “a redneck [who] doesn’t like women,” to a HUD investigator and other persons.

The trial court dismissed the defamation suit under California’s anti-SLAPP law, but the appeals court reversed. In 1999, the California Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal, holding that the statements made by ECHO were in connection with a government proceeding, and therefore protected. 

See Briggs v. ECHO, 19 Cal.4th 1106 (1999).

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