Breakings News: Calvary Chapel Grenier Lawsuit Anti-SLAPP

The defamation lawsuit of Calvary Chapel Visalia pastor Bob Grenier and his wife Gayle vs.Tim  Taylor and Alex Grenier is taking place in Tulare County, California. A court hearing date is scheduled for February 19, 2013.

According to defendant Tim Taylor, the court there typically releases a tentative judgment online, on the day before the official court hearing. Since Monday is a federal holiday, the court has posted their tentative decision today and the actual day in court will be Tuesday, February 19. According to Tim’s sources, the losing side has the opportunity at that time to convince the judge to reverse the decision- but such a reversal rarely happens.

Here is the breaking news from Alex as of 2:30 PM on February 15:

The Judge’s decision was continued until February 26.

Alex comments:

Julie Anne, SSB family, thank you so much for covering our story and for speaking out. We all need to continue to shine a bright light into the dark places.

Our hearing was continued to Feb. 26 with a tentative ruling now scheduled for Feb. 25 between 1pm-3pm PST.

Thank you again and keep speaking out against abuse in the church wherever it may occur.

We will add details as they become known, but wanted to update you on this important news in the latest report.

Background on SLAPP/Anti-SLAPP

An anti-SLAPP motion was filed by Tim Taylor and Alex Grenier, the defendants in this case. If you are wondering what an anti-SLAPP motion is, the following background should help. It comes from an analysis by regular Spiritual Sounding Board commenter, Brad (brad/futuristguy) Sargent. This is an excerpt from an extended review he did on the similar defamation lawsuit of Beaverton Grace Bible Church v. Smith, where Spiritual Sounding Board blogger Julie Anne Smith was the main defendant for posting allegedly defamatory statements against her former pastor and church. Please keep in mind, the Analysis/Commentary section relates to anti-SLAPP in Oregon. The statutes in California may play out differently.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. These are civil suits whose purposes are generally designed to silence or intimidate opponents. SLAPP suits are often frivolous and insidious, and are typically used by individuals or entities with “deep pockets” – ample funds to outlast and outlawyer their opponents.

This paragraph from the wikipedia article on SLAPP and anti-SLAPP is very instructive about this type of defamation lawsuit. I strongly suggest that ALL court documents, blog posts, blog comments, news interviews, and any other primary and secondary sources of information about an SLAPP case should be carefully evaluated with this information in mind:

“Other widely mentioned elements of a SLAPP are the actual effectiveness at silencing critics, the timing of the suit, inclusion of extra or spurious defendants (such as relatives or hosts of legitimate defendants), inclusion of plaintiffs with no real claim (such as corporations that are affiliated with legitimate plaintiffs), making claims that are very difficult to disprove or rely on no written record, ambiguous or deliberately mangled wording that lets plaintiffs make spurious allegations without fear of perjury, refusal to consider any settlement (or none other than cash), characterization of all offers to settle as insincere, extensive and unnecessary demands for discovery, attempts to identify anonymous or pseudonymous critics, appeals on minor points of law, demands for broad rulings when appeal is accepted on such minor points of law, and attempts to run up defendants’ costs even if this clearly costs more to the plaintiffs.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-SLAPP)

Typically, an anti-SLAPP motion is filed to counter SLAPP defamation lawsuits. It was designed to protect defendants from frivolous lawsuits. Many states have some version of an anti-SLAPP statute. Oregon is one of them. (As of January 2013, there is no federal anti-SLAPP statute in place. However, according to the Public Participation Project, 29 states currently have a statute.) The Anti-SLAPP statutes developed in California have served as a model for those in other states like Oregon, where the Beaverton Grace Bible Church v. Smith court case was heard.

ANALYSIS/COMMENTARY – ANTI-SLAPP

How does an anti-SLAPP work? As best I can understand and explain it in relatively non-technical language, the filing of an anti-SLAPP motion “freezes” or “suspends” the judicial process. So, the case does not go to a jury trial (as was requested in the O’Neal/BGBC lawsuit). Instead, the case goes before a judge and is given expedited treatment.

Also, filing of an anti-SLAPP motion means the suspension order goes into effect immediately. Neither plaintiffs nor defendants are allowed any further depositions or discovery process. This means they cannot search for additional evidence to support their case. (Apparently, the theory for stopping discovery and pushing up the court date schedule is that, should a civil suit prove to be unfounded or otherwise frivolous, the defendants will not have had to spend considerable time and funds to comply with the draining demands of the plaintiffs.)

This all means that the judge considers only the evidence at hand – making his/her decision based on the official Complaint documents from plaintiffs, any response documents from defendants, and any counter-responses. Plus, in-person presentations in the courtroom. In this kind of defamation/freedom of speech case, the burden of proof is on the plaintiffs to show substantial evidence that the allegations are “actionable items” of “provable facts” and the defendant(s) knowingly “defamed” by telling a lie (not an opinion, and not merely believing they were telling the truth) and did so with “absolute malice” (wreckless disregard). (There will be leads shortly on what these more technical issues mean.)

If the plaintiffs demonstrate their case clearly enough and the anti-SLAPP motion fails, the defendants could appeal. If the defendants’ appeal fails, then the lawsuit goes forward with discovery, depositions, jury trial if requested, and cross-examination. If the anti-SLAPP motion succeeds because the plaintiffs fail to give substantial enough evidence, then the lawsuit is over (unless the plaintiffs appeal).

So – since plaintiffs hold the responsibility to give “substantial evidence” that their allegations of the defendants’ statements indeed constitute “defamation,” the key implication in the Beaverton Grace Bible Church v. Smith is this: Once the anti-SLAPP motion went into effect, the plaintiffs and their legal counsels were pretty much stuck with working within what evidence they had already submitted. There are indicators from sources other than my opinion that the BGBC v. Smith plaintiffs’ documents were poorly drafted, and done without consideration that an anti-SLAPP motion might be filed. […] And all of this seemed to set the plaintiffs’ team off in an almost unrecoverable direction, right from the start.

~ Brad [brad/futuristguy] Sargent, January 2013

P.S. The Citizen Media Law Project also has a page that overviews Anti-SLAPP Law in California specifically.

16 comments on “Breakings News: Calvary Chapel Grenier Lawsuit Anti-SLAPP

  1. @ Buff. Sorry for the confusion. I cut and pasted Alex’s comment. From the sparse details he shared, it looks like no tentative ruling was posted today. We’ll have to wait until the 25th to see what the court has tentatively decided.

    Like

  2. Buff. What makes it more confusing is that the original court date changed. I got confirmation late last night that hearing was moved to today! Brad is helping out here while I’m out of town for a few days with limited computer access.

    Like

  3. Brad/futuristguy – Thank you for holding down the fort during my sporadic absence.and for posting the updates and anti-SLAPP information. It looks great. It is important to have this information publicized because we have seen this pattern played out a number of times. As long as there are bullies in the pulpit, others will be subjected to foolish lawsuits. I will never forget the day I received the lawsuit. I spent hours and hours searching the internet trying to figure out what I needed to do. I had no idea where to search.

    Alex and Tim are in very good hands. I’ve read court documents and if I were Bob, I’d be wondering where to find the funds that will be necessary to pay off Bob’s attorney AND Alex and Tim’s attorney(s) – yes, they have a group of attorneys and that bill ain’t going to be cheap. Yes, if Bob and Gayle lose, they will have to cough up not only their attorney fees, but Alex and Tim’s as well. The bill my former pastor had to pay was around $60,000. I’ve heard that the attorney fees in CA are more expensive and combine that with a team of attorneys – whoa Nellie! I think Bob’s going to be eating rice and beans and beans and rice for a long while as Dave Ramsey would say.

    Like

  4. Julie Anne,
    Thank you for the updates. Do you have the process you went through in your lawsuit posted on your site? Was it similar to this, where the decision is given ahead of time? I thought yours was an actual trial, but maybe I got that from reading other comments on other sites. Can you direct me to where you have your ‘case progression’ available for us to read? Praying for Alex, Tim, and those involved in this.
    Thanks,
    Brian

    Like

  5. Hey guys. What happened was this, the “tentative ruling” today, which was to precede Monday’s hearing ended up being a continuance to a “tentative ruling” on Feb. 25 and a hearing on Feb. 26. Apparently, this is not uncommon with a case with as much “stuff” as this one. The judge probably wanted more time to digest all the info and to get his arms around the anti-slapp law and read through all the cases that were laid out, etc etc. We think it’s just a good judge making sure he has enough time to be thorough. We’ll see what happens on the 25th (now). Thanks for covering this stuff and for the concern.

    Like

  6. Thanks for the explanation, Alex.

    Brian,

    Although Oregon adopted its anti-SLAPP laws from California, my attorney told me there are differences. In our case, there was an original hearing in which both sides stated their case. The judge then gave the attorneys an assignment to write up a document and send it to the him by a deadline. He was then to take the information from the court documents, the oral arguments at the hearing, and the write-up and give a judgment in July. When we got there, we were surprised that he wanted to hear more. Additionally, there were changes along the way: Chuck O’Neal replaced his attorney with new attorneys, 2 defendants were voluntarily dismissed, some alleged-defamatory statements were removed, another defendant was added to the lawsuit and there were new alleged defamatory phrases added. After rehashing all of that again, this time including a recap of how the new defendant was involved, the judge said he would take some time to carefully review everything and mail us the ruling. It took about 2 wks for us to receive the final ruling in which he dismissed the case.

    Regarding your question about if I have this documented online – stay tuned! As we are headed close to the anniversary date of the lawsuit, we are working behind the scenes on a large document which will chronicle the entire case. I will be sharing more about this soon. Thanks for asking!

    Like

  7. Julie Anne, that’s awesome (about releasing the document). Continuing to chronicle your case is very important. It really helped me to read about your case before mine. I’m sure it will help others in the future.

    Like

  8. Alex and Tim are in very good hands. I’ve read court documents and if I were Bob, I’d be wondering where to find the funds that will be necessary to pay off Bob’s attorney AND Alex and Tim’s attorney(s) – yes, they have a group of attorneys and that bill ain’t going to be cheap.

    I doubt that will be a problem. “GOD COMMANDS YOU TO TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE! TITHE!”

    Like

  9. Alex, please give my best to your brothers and to Tim Taylor. I will be rooting for you on the 25th and 26th. Julie Anne & Brad, thanks for keeping us posted!

    I don’t get to check in as much here lately, I’m in a financial theory class that’s kicking my you know what, but I set a reminder to check in then!!!

    Like

  10. Pingback: #WhoWouldJesusSue: Media FAQs | Spiritual Sounding Board

  11. Pingback: #WhoWouldJesusSue: Breaking News Advisory – Press Release #1 | Spiritual Sounding Board

  12. Pingback: #WhoWouldJesusSue: Media FAQs and Resources » Calvary Chapel Abuse | Calvary Chapel Abuse

  13. Pingback: #WhoWouldJesusSue: Breaking News Advisory – Press Release #1 » Calvary Chapel Abuse | Calvary Chapel Abuse

  14. Pingback: For the Media: Breaking News Advisory « Who Would Jesus Sue?

  15. Pingback: Who would Jesus sue? Social media demands justice over pastor's lawsuit against his step son and others speaking out against sex abuse | God Discussion

Thanks for participating in the SSB community. Please be sure to leave a name/pseudonym (not "Anonymous"). Thx :)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s