Fox Team Scores Major Victory in California Anti-SLAPP Suit for Musician Eddie Money

February 4, 2019 – Press Releases

A team of Fox Rothschild litigators led by Lincoln Bandlow secured an important First Amendment victory for musician Eddie Money when the California Court of Appeal revived his Anti-SLAPP motion against a former drummer in his band who filed a discrimination suit after he was terminated.

The case is particularly significant because the California courts have been wrestling with the issue of whether an Anti-SLAPP motion may be brought in the employment context.

In Symmonds v. Mahoney, the appellate panel found that a lower court was wrong to deny Money’s Anti-SLAPP motion, holding that Money’s free speech rights were clearly at issue in his decisions relating to hiring and firing of band members.

California courts have been deeply fractured over the issue of whether employment discrimination claims are eligible for protection under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute. (SLAPP is an acronym for a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.) Previously, courts held that certain employment decisions – such as choosing a weather anchor – could constitute conduct in furtherance of the right to free speech in connection with an issue of public concern. 

More recently, however, courts have retreated from this position in favor of a per se rule that employment discrimination and retaliation claims can never constitute protected activity under California’s Anti-SLAPP statute. The California Supreme Court has agreed to review a group of cases that all address this issue, including Wilson v. Cable News Network, which involves a former CNN producer’s claims of employment discrimination, retaliation and defamation.

But in Money’s case, the Court of Appeal opted not to wait for the high court’s ruling and issued a precedential opinion just three days after hearing oral argument.

Bandlow said: “I think the Court of Appeal wanted to send a clear message to courts throughout California – that no claim is immune from California’s Anti-SLAPP statute, particularly where that claim relates to quintessential conduct that furthers a person’s free speech rights, such as a rock star like Eddie Money deciding who should be up there on stage performing his music.”

Bandlow was assisted in the appeal by Fox attorneys Rom Bar-Nissim and Laurie Baddon.