Nevada Supreme Court rules in favor of McLetchie Law’s clients on writ petition in anti-SLAPP matter
Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
Can a plaintiff voluntarily dismiss a case under NRCP 41(a)(1) during the pendency of an anti-SLAPP motion if no answer or motion for summary judgment has been filed?
In 2021, Plaintiffs Marshal S. Willick and his firm, the Willick Law Group, attempted to do just that in a defamation matter against McLetchie Law’s clients, defendants Steve Sanson and Veterans in Politics International (VIPI), even though the merits of the litigation had been considered by the Eighth Judicial District Court and the Nevada Supreme Court reversed the district court on de novo review. Voluntary dismissal of this case would have meant that Mr. Sanson and VIPI would be denied the important protections of Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute, including a potential entitlement to attorney’s fees, costs, and a statutory award.
The district court denied Mr. Willick’s motion to voluntarily dismiss, and Mr. Willick petitioned the Nevada Supreme Court for writ relief to overturn that decision.
On March 31, 2022, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mr. Sanson and VIPI. While it refused to adopt a per-se rule automatically equating a special anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss with a motion for summary judgment under NRCP 41(a)(1), the Nevada Supreme Court held that, given the “unique and extreme circumstances” of the case, Mr. Willick “is estopped from dismissing his action with no consequences, as the litigation has reached an advanced stage after four years and a prior de novo appeal.”
In anti-SLAPP cases, the prevailing defendant is entitled to reasonable fees and costs incurred in defending their right to free speech. The Nevada Supreme Court previously found that Mr. Sanson and VIPI satisfied the first prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis — that their criticism of Mr. Willick’s legal practices were good-faith communications, made in a place open to the public, in direct connection with a matter of public concern. The next step in the litigation is addressing the second prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis: whether the Plaintiffs’ case has minimal merit. Mr. Sanson and VIPI contend that it does not — and was just designed to insulate a high-profile lawyer from public criticism.
The Nevada Supreme Court’s published opinion can be accessed by going to https://caseinfo.nvsupremecourt.us/document/view.do?csIID=60987&csNameID=60987&deLinkID=851483&onBaseDocumentNumber=22-10007