Nevada S. Ct. Rejects Libel Plaintiff’s Attempt to Dismiss a Case While an Anti-SLAPP Motion is Pending

Starting at Willick against SansonThe Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of the appeal on Thursday.

Respondents Steve Sanson (collectively, Willick Law Group) and Marshal S. Willick filed a complaint against Steve Sanson (collectively, Sanson), alleging they had made online defamatory statements about Willick. Sanson responded by filing a special motion for dismissal of the case pursuant to Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). [which provides for attorney fees if the defendant wins, but after a good deal of litigation and while a renewed anti-SLAPP motion was pending, Willick moved to voluntarily dismiss the case] …. The District Court [rejected Willick’s attempt] …. Willick … ask[s] us to vacate the district court’s order….

[E]stopping Willick from voluntarily dismissing his case serves NRCP 41(a)(l)(A)(i)’s essential purpose in this instance…. Willick waited a long time—four years—before filing his notice of voluntary dismissal. He also filed his notice of voluntary dismissal only one day after the court reversed an order in favor of Willick’s case and after another failed mediation effort. The hearing for the anti-SLAPP Motion was held. The merits of anti-SLAPP’s first prong are now fully raised and determined. They were also appealed to the district court. Willick and Sanson now await the decision of the district court on the second prong.

Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statutes are designed to safeguard First Amendment rights and provide defendants with a procedure to dismiss’meritless’ lawsuits.[s]A party may initiate litigation in order to hinder a defendant from exercising his First Amendment freedom speech rights. Sanson, in this instance, has clearly incurred litigation fees.

We conclude that Willick cannot dismiss his case without consequences because the litigation is in its advanced stages after four years of litigation and an appeal de novo. We conclude therefore that Willick did not abuse his discretion in vacating the petitioners’ voluntary dismissal notice. We deny Willick’s request for a writ to mandamus or prohibition.

Margaret A. McLetchie, congratulations on your victory