Minnesota

The Minnesota anti-SLAPP statute immunizes from liability “[l]awful conduct or speech that is genuinely aimed in whole or in part at procuring favorable government action . . . unless the conduct or speech constitutes a tort or a violation of a person’s constitutional rights.” Minn. Stat. 554.03 (2011). Under the statute, such speech or conduct is public participation. 554.01. The state’s intermediate appellate court has held that the statute does not provide immunity to statements “intentionally aimed at audiences having no connection with the public . . . controversy.” Freeman v. Swift, 776 N.W.2d 485 (Minn. Ct. App. 2009).

Minnesota’s anti-SLAPP law allows a defendant who is the subject of a claim that “materially relates to an act . . . that involves public participation” to file a motion to dismiss or strike the complaint. Minn. Stat. 554.02. Discovery activities are placed on hold from the time the motion is filed until not only the trial court has ruled on it but until all appeals regarding it have been resolved.

However, the judge, after a hearing on the matter, may order discovery to be conducted if the requesting party can show good cause for it. The court will grant the motion unless the plaintiff can show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s acts are not immune from liability. The statute does not specify what evidence the court will consider in making this determination.

Minnesota’s anti-SLAPP statute includes a provision allowing any governmental body to which the SLAPP defendant’s acts were directed to intervene to defend or otherwise support the defendant.

If the court denies the motion to dismiss or strike, the defendant is entitled to appeal that decision immediately. Special Force Ministries v. WCCO Television, 576 N.W.2d 746 (Minn. 1998). However, if it grants the motion, the court will order the plaintiff to pay the prevailing SLAPP defendant’s costs and attorney fees. Minn. Stat. 554.04. Moreover, it will award damages to a successful defendant who can show that the plaintiff brought the claim “for the purpose of harassment, to inhibit the [defendant’s] public participation, to interfere with [his] exercise of protected constitutional rights, or otherwise wrongfully injure the [defendant].” In addition, the court may — but is not required to — award punitive damages.