Hawaii’s anti-SLAPP law is narrow in scope, providing protection only against claims involving testimony submitted to a government body “during the course of a governmental proceeding.” Haw. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 634F-1 (2019).
Thus, a defendant sued solely because of his public participation before a governmental body may file a motion to dismiss or strike the claim under Hawaii’s anti-SLAPP law. §§ 634F-1, 634F-2. If the court fails to rule on the motion in an expedited fashion, the defendant is entitled to file an application asking an appellate court to order the lower court to make its decision, although the statute does not define “expedited.” § 634F-2(1–2).
Hawaii’s anti-SLAPP law places an absolute hold on discovery activities from the time the motion is filed until not only the trial court has ruled on it but until all appeals are exhausted. § 634F-2(3). That is, Hawaii courts are not statutorily authorized to permit discovery, even if the requesting party can show good cause for it.
The statute allows the plaintiff seven days to amend the complaint so that its allegations are “pled with specificity.” § 634F-2(4)(A). In ruling on the motion to dismiss or strike, the judge will review the amended complaint, if submitted, and grant the motion unless the plaintiff can show that it is more likely than not that the allegations do not constitute a SLAPP suit. § 634F-2(4)(B). In making this determination, a Hawaii court will consider the plaintiff’s complaint and the SLAPP defendant’s motion to dismiss or strike. § 634F-2(5).
Hawaii’s anti-SLAPP law includes a provision allowing any government body to which the SLAPP defendant’s acts were directed to intervene to defend or otherwise support the defendant in the lawsuit. § 634F-2(7).
If the court denies the motion to dismiss or strike, the defendant is entitled to appeal that decision immediately. § 634F-2(2)(A). However, if the defendant prevails, the court must impose costs and attorney’s fees on the plaintiff and order the plaintiff to pay the successful defendant actual damages or $5,000, whichever is greater. § 634F-2(8)(A)–(B). The Hawaii anti-SLAPP law also requires the court to impose “[s]uch additional sanctions upon the [plaintiff], its attorneys, or law firms as the court determines shall be sufficient to deter repetition of the conduct and comparable conduct by others similarly situated.” § 634F-2(8)(C).
In addition, anyone injured by the SLAPP suit may bring a “SLAPPback” lawsuit against the plaintiff in the original lawsuit. § 634F-2(9).