Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Philanthropy as Protected Activity

Save Westwood Village v. Luskin, No. B253013 (D2d2 Jan. 15, 2015).

Plaintiffs here are some kind of NIMBY group that is trying to stop UCLA from building a conference center. Their objection seems to be that the center will include what they characterize as a commercial hotel, which violates some statutory mandate on the UC Regents to not engage in commercial development. But they didnt just sue the Regents. They also sued a charitable foundation that raises money for UCLA and some of its big donors, one of whom also heads the foundation, for donating funds to UCLA in support of the project. That draws a anti-SLAPP motion, to which the plaintiffs responded by voluntarily dismissing these defendants. The trial court granted the motion and plaintiffs appealed.

The court holds that the plaintiffs claim arose from the charitable contributions and some letters these defendants wrote in support of the project. Unsurprisingly, that kind of stuff is conduct in furtherance of a free speech on an issue of public interest and thus protected activity under Code of Civil Procedure § 425.16(e)(4). And plaintiffs werent entitled to the protection of the public interest exception in § 425.17. While plaintiffs might have a public interest argument against the Regents, there really is no public benefit to be had by restraining philanthropists from donating to a charitable foundation that supports UCLA. And since plaintiffs dismissed the relevant defendants before the motion was heard, they effectively conceded that they had no likelihood of success.

Affirmed.

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