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Is Nevada's Anti-SLAPP statute as weak as it seems?

Generally, Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP seems like a pansy-ass statute without much teeth. But some recent applications of NRS 41.635-70 give the Nevada version almost as much of a bite as California’s—the state regarded as having the best Anti-SLAPP statute in the country.

Last year, Clark County Court Judge Gloria Sturman dismissed a lawsuit against local real estate investors on behalf of collection agencies, applying NRS 41.660. The Defendant investors argued that the lawsuit was a SLAPP suit intended to gather information about a larger group of investors the collection agencies regularly did business with. Judge Sturman agreed, concluding that the plaintiffs failed to meet their to show the defendants had engaged in wrong-doing, and that the defendants’ communications with the Nevada Financial Institutions Division regarding the plaintiffs’ practices were “good faith communications in furtherance of the right to petition.”

What is most important, however, is the case that Judge Sturman’s order cites to. A few years ago, the Nevada Supreme Court had a very important case for NV’s Anti-SLAPP statutes: John v. Douglas County School Disctrict, 219 P.3d 1276 (2009). The appellant in the case was a school security officer who first faced suspension for unprofessional conduct and sexual harassment. The appellant filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school district respondent. About a year later, the school district found out that the appellant had improperly obtained confidential student records and, following an investigation, terminated him. The school district then filed a special motion to dismiss under NV’s anti-SLAPP statute. The Nevada Supreme Court upheld the district court’s dismissal, finding that the school district’s inquiry into the appellant’s record was appropriate.

The caselaw the Nevada Supreme Court turned to for its reasoning is what gives NV’s Anti-SLAPP a bit more kick. The Court states, “Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute was enacted in 1993, shortly after California adopted its statute, and both statutes are similar in purpose and language,” and later, “When determining whether Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute falls within this category, we consider California caselaw because California’s anti-SLAPP statute is similar in purpose and language to Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute.”

The Court then goes on to draw parallels to California Anti-SLAPP cases, continuing to state that California’s statute is “similar in purpose and language.” California’s statute is by far the most protective in the country, so the parallels are promising for NV’s statute, which on its face seems rather weak.

Effectively, the case could help Nevada’s Anti-SLAPP law to evolve to be just as powerful as California’s— maybe it’s not such a pansy-ass statute after all.

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