[634F-1] Definitions. As used in this chapter, unless the context otherwise requires:

"Governmental body" includes a branch, department, agency, instrumentality, official, employee, agent, or other person acting under color of law of the United States, a state, or subdivision of a state or other public authority.

"Judicial claim" or "claim" includes any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, counterclaim, or other judicial pleading or filing requesting relief.

"Lacks substantial justification" means substantially frivolous, substantially groundless, or substantially vexatious.

"Motion" includes any motion to dismiss, for summary judgment, for judgment on the pleadings or to strike, a demurrer, or any other judicial pleading filed to dispose of a judicial claim.

"Moving party" means any person on whose behalf the motion described in section 634F-2 is filed seeking dismissal of the judicial claim.

"Person" includes any individual, corporation, association, organization, partnership, two or more persons having a joint or common interest, or other legal entity.

"Public participation" means any oral or written testimony submitted or provided to a governmental body during the course of a governmental proceeding.

"Responding party" means any person against whom the motion described in section 634F-2 is filed.

"SLAPP" means a strategic lawsuit against public participation and refers to a lawsuit that lacks substantial justification or is interposed for delay or harassment and that is solely based on the party's public participation before a governmental body. [L 2002, c 187, pt of 2]

 

Case Notes

 

Given the allegations in plaintiff's complaint, the filing of the office of disciplinary counsel (ODC) complaint by defendant against plaintiff did not constitute "public participation" before a governmental body, as defined in this section, because the ODC complaint did not involve "oral or written testimony" but rather set forth allegations and was a request to the ODC for an investigation. Based on the plain meaning of "testimony", even when liberally construed, the ODC complaint and allegations contained therein were not "testimony" and were not protected under chapter 634F. 129 H. 95 (App.), 294 P.3d 1081 (2013).

With respect to plaintiff's claims based on defendant siblings' communications with the mayor, the mayor's assistant, and members of the county council, the communications did not constitute "testimony" submitted or provided "during the course of a governmental proceeding" and did not constitute a strategic lawsuit against public participation. Even under a liberal construction of this section, nothing in chapter 634F suggests that an individual's unsolicited and informal communication with a government official, when there is no formal process or procedure in progress, constitutes "testimony submitted or provided to a governmental body during the course of a governmental proceeding". 129 H. 95 (App.), 294 P.3d 1081 (2013).

 

 

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