United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
NANNETTE JOLIVETTE BROWN, District Judge.
Before the Court is Defendant Sieglinde Chambliss' ("Chambliss") "Special Motion to Strike, Motion to Dismiss, or, Alternatively, Motion for Summary Judgment, " wherein Chambliss requests that this Court dismiss McIntyre's complaint and award her attorneys' fees and costs. Local Rule 7.5 of the Eastern District of Louisiana requires that memoranda in opposition to a motion be filed eight days prior to the date set for hearing on the motion. No memorandum in opposition to the pending motion, which was set for hearing on April 29, 2015, was submitted, timely or otherwise. Accordingly, this motion is deemed unopposed. District courts may grant an unopposed motion as long as the motion has merit.
In his complaint, Plaintiff Ronald McIntyre, proceeding pro se, alleges that Defendants Chambiss and David Gilmore ("Gilmore") made defamatory statements regarding his work and dismissal as Director of the Finance Department at the Housing Authority of New Orleans ("HANO"). Specifically, McIntyre alleges as follows:
On or about January 28, 2014[, ] David Gilmore and Sieglinde Chambliss created a letter entitled "Supplement to January 16, 2014 Termination Letter" on the letterhead of the Housing Authority of New Orleans. The letter contains a paragraph which reads:
During the period in which you were on administrative leave I hired a Chief Financial Officer conducted [sic] a thorough review of the status of the department's management. That review is on-going [sic] but significant findings have already emerged sufficient to conclude that your performance as Finance Director was grossly unsatisfactory. Within the next several weeks a report will be completed that will fully document that your mismanagement of the department was excessive. Had I known what I now know, your unsatisfactory performance would have been sufficient to terminate your employment even without the investigation into your conduct. Because you were successful in masking your deficient performance, we will now have to undertake time-consuming and costly corrective action.
The letter also contains paragraphs which references [sic] the plaintiff misrepresented his credentials regarding his education on his resume and the plaintiff acted inappropriately toward a female employee as determined by an independent investigation.
McIntyre additionally alleges that Chambliss "has further stated untrue statements to staff members which is [sic] false and critical of the plaintiff's work performance at the Housing Authority of New Orleans." Moreover, McIntyre states that Chambliss and Gilmore are "jointly, severally and as coconspirators" liable for "the torts of defamation, libel, slander, and/or false light invasion of privacy." Accordingly, it appears that McIntyre alleges causes of action against Chambliss and Gilmore for defamation, false light invasion of privacy, and conspiracy.
II. Applicable Law
The pending motion is a special motion to strike pursuant to Article 971 of the Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure, Louisiana's "anti-SLAPP" statute." Article 971 was enacted in 1999 upon a legislative finding that "there has been a disturbing increase in lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and petition for redress of grievances." These lawsuits are commonly referred to as "strategic lawsuits against public participation, " or more succinctly "SLAPPs." Consequently, legislative enactments designed to combat these lawsuits and to encourage public participation in matters of public significance have been dubbed "anti-SLAPP" statutes.
Article 971 provides, in relevant part, as follows:
A cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or Louisiana Constitution in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established a probability of success on the claim.
The Fifth Circuit has stated that "Article 971 establishes a burden-shifting analysis for weeding out frivolous claims." To succeed on an Article 971 motion, the defendant must first make a prima facie showing that Article 971 covers the activity underlying the suit. That is, the defendant must "establish[ ] that a cause of action against him arises from an act by him in furtherance of the exercise of his right of petition or free speech under the United States or Louisiana Constitution in connection with a public issue." If the defendant makes this showing, "the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to demonstrate a probability of success on his claim." If the plaintiff fails to ...