Maryland

The Maryland anti-SLAPP law protects defendants from claims based on their “communicati[ons] with a federal, State, or local government body or the public at large, if the defendant, without constitutional malice, reports on, comments on, rules on, challenges, opposes, or in any other way exercises rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or . . . the Maryland Declaration of Rights regarding any matter within the authority of a government body or any issue of public concern.” Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-807 (2011). However, this statutory definition of a SLAPP suit also requires that it be “[b]rought in bad faith” — the only such requirement in any anti-SLAPP law nationwide — and “[i]ntended to inhibit or [does] inhibit[] the exercise of rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution or . . . the Maryland Declaration of Rights.” Although there are no Maryland state court published reports interpreting the statute, the federal court in Maryland, in two instructive but non-binding decisions involving the law, held that factual disputes as to whether the suits were brought in bad faith precluded their dismissal. Ugwuonye v. Rotimi, No. PJM 09-658, 2010 WL 3038099, at *4 (D. Md. July 30, 2010); Russell v. Krowne, No. DKC 2008-2468, 2010 WL 2765268, at *3 (D. Md. July 12, 2010).

The Maryland anti-SLAPP law allows a defendant to move to dismiss the claim or to place the proceeding on hold until the matter about which he communicated to the government or the public is resolved. Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. 5-807. A court is required to hear the motion to dismiss “as soon as practicable.” The statute does not specify whether the filing of these motions tolls discovery activities, though presumably a court’s order granting a defendant’s motion to place the proceeding on hold until the commented-on matter is resolved would extend to discovery proceedings. In addition, the statute does not specify what standard a court will use to decide these motions or what evidence it will consider in making this determination.

Maryland’s anti-SLAPP law is one of only a handful to not address costs and attorney fees.