Yesterday, the California Supreme Court issued an opinion in Varian Medical Systems v. Delfino, in which it held that appeal from a denial of a pre-trial SLAPP motion automatically stays the trial court proceedings until resolution of that appeal. For those of you unfamiliar with SLAPP law, it is a provision of the California Code of Civil Procedure under which the defendant may move to strike complaint on the ground that it interferes with the defendant's First Amendment right to participate in an issue of public importance. If the plaintiff cannot demonstratve a probability of prevailing on that complaint, the trial court must strike it and award the defendant attorneys' fees.
The facts of this one are interesting. The defendants are former research scientists and employees of the plaintiff company (the plaintiff fired one of them and the other one resigned in sympathy). The defendants then organized their independent research company in Silicon Valley. However, in their spare time, they also began to post what the Supreme Court called "derogatory messages about the plaintiffs on the Internet." I actually read one of the amicus brief in support of the defendants and their messages may have been about some bona fide dispute between them and the plaintiff. In any event, the plaintiffs became unhappy with those posts and sued the defendants for various causes of action, including libel, invasion of privacy, and engaging in unfair competition.
This case attracted my attention because it addresses the same issue as in one of my current pending appeals - termination of the trial court's jurisdiction once the appeal is perfected.