When you are recovering a judgment, often you begin by mailing your judgment debtor a polite letter. You might suggest a payment plan or discount, if they pay the judgment off quickly. If the judgment was assigned to you, or you are a lawyer or a collection agency; you would want to let the debtor know that you are now the one to pay, to satisfy the judgment.
What if your debtor then responds by threatening a lawsuit, or worse yet, you get served with notice of their lawsuit; asserting that you did something wrong by writing them a letter, or taking some other legal action to attempt to enforce your judgment?
This article is my opinion, and not legal advice. I am a judgment expert, and am not a lawyer. If you ever need any legal advice or a strategy to use, please contact a lawyer.
Anybody can start to sue anybody else for any reason, including no valid reason. If you do your best to fulfill your obligations, follow all laws, treat everyone well, do not burn anyone, and are usually cheerful, honest, fair, and helpful; you are much less likely to get sued. If you get sued for doing nothing wrong, find a lawyer familiar with anti-SLAPP laws, which can usually stop many frivolous lawsuits.
When you own a judgment, enforcing it is a normal and expected course of action. My nonlegal opinion is that your right to attempt to satisfy your judgment is not restrained simply because someone thinks you are violating their rights, legally recovering your judgment against them. In every state, it is legal to attempt to properly recover a judgment. In most courts, unjust lawsuits can often be stopped.
SLAPP usually is an abbreviation for Strategic Litigation against Public Participation. Sometimes, SLAPP is an abbreviation for slightly different names. Most states have anti-SLAPP laws, for when people get sued for words or actions protected by their first amendment rights. These laws are intended to prevent censorship or intimidation.
Anti-SLAPP laws came in response to “clever” people who thought they could shut someone up or intimidate them by suing them. State legislatures stepped in and passed new laws, in a somewhat unusual case of laws moving in the right direction.
The anti-SLAPP defense is a unique form of redress (a strategic motion meant to strike) a meritless SLAPP lawsuit. It inhibits those who attempt to hassle others by suing them with meritless lawsuits; designed to deplete their victim’s assets, and bully them into giving into their unreasonable demands. Sometimes, the person sued can sue the plaintiff for malicious prosecution.
A SLAPP motion is not a complaint, it is a special motion (demurrer) to strike the plaintiff’s complaint. The defendant files their SLAPP motion in response, instead of answering the complaint. The defendant asserts that the lawsuit is (for example) meritless, without any valid cause of action, and designed solely to intimidate them, or to keep them from exercising their legal rights.
SLAPP motions are used in “so what” situations when someone sues you (for example) for expressing your opinion, for doing your job properly, or parking in your own parking space. If there is no valid “cause of action”, you may be able to bring your anti-SLAPP motion.
Sometimes, once a SLAPP attorney contacts the plaintiff’s attorney, the plaintiff’s attorney drops the lawsuit, because they know their side would be liable for the SLAPP attorney’s fees.
For example, if you get sued for sending a discrete and polite letter (and follow all state and FDCPA laws) informing the judgment debtor, of your need to be paid and their options; that is most likely a form of protected speech. Before the deadline, you or your lawyer can probably file an anti-SLAPP motion, which should do three things:
1) Halts the lawsuit at whatever stage it is currently at.
2) Before the lawsuit progresses, the plaintiff has the burden of proving that the defendant’s communication and speech were not protected.
3) If the court then decides the defendant’s speech is protected, then the defendant gets all their attorney fees and court costs paid by the plaintiff.
Most states have anti-SLAPP laws. In California, there are CCPs 425.16, 425.17, 425.18, and the SB 320 California Anti-Libel Tourism Act. Good websites for more SLAPP information include www.SLAPPLAW.com and www.Anti-SLAPP.org.