Missouri

The Missouri anti-SLAPP law applies to “[a]ny action seeking money damages against a person for conduct or speech undertaken or made in connection with a public hearing or public meeting, in a quasi-judicial proceeding before a tribunal or decision-making body of the state or any political subdivision of the state.” Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.528 (2011). A public meeting in a quasi-judicial proceeding includes any meeting held by a state or local governmental entity, including meetings of or presentations before state, county, city, town or village councils, planning commissions or review boards.

The state’s intermediate appellate court has held that the underlying claim must be for money damages and not declaratory or injunctive relief, which seek, respectively, determinations from a court about a particular legal issue or court orders to bar certain acts. Moschenross v. St. Louis County, 188 S.W.3d 13 (Mo. Ct. App. 2006).

A defendant sued for damages based on his acts in connection with such a public meeting can bring a motion to dismiss under the Missouri anti-SLAPP statute. Mo. Rev. Stat. 537.528. The court will consider the motion “on a priority or expedited basis.” If the court fails to rule on the motion in an expedited fashion, either party is entitled to seek expedited review in the appellate court, although the statute does not define “expedited.”

Missouri’s anti-SLAPP statute is one of only a handful to place 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 regarding it are exhausted. That is, Missouri courts are not statutorily authorized to order discovery to be conducted if the requesting party can show good cause for it. 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.

If the court grants the SLAPP defendant’s motion to dismiss, it will impose costs and attorney fees on the other side, assuming the defendant complied with certain filing deadlines. Conversely, the court will award costs and attorney fees to the plaintiff if it finds that the motion to dismiss was frivolous or brought solely to delay the proceedings. Either party is entitled to expedited review of the court’s decision on the motion to dismiss.