Collier v. HarrisAnnotate this Case
Defendant-appellant Chris Korpi and plaintiff-respondent Julie Collier were supporters of competing candidates in a local school board election. To educate voters about the candidates he supported, Korpi registered Collier's name and the name of an advocacy group she formed as domain names, and then redirected all Internet users who visited those Web sites to the Web sites for the candidates he supported. Collier filed this action against Korpi, alleging he registered the domain names and illegally used them to mislead the public into thinking she supported his candidates. Korpi moved to strike Collier's complaint under the anti-SLAPP statute. The trial court denied Korpi's motion because it found he failed to show Collier's claims arose from free speech activities protected by the anti-SLAPP statute. Although the court acknowledged political commentary was the quintessential form of free speech, it concluded Korpi's conduct in registering the domain names and redirecting Internet traffic did not further Korpi's free speech rights. The Court of Appeal disagreed, reversed and remanded. Registering the domain names and redirecting Internet users to the other Web sites assisted Korpi in exercising his free speech rights because those acts provided him with additional forums to reach the public with information about the school board candidates. "The statute required nothing more." Regardless whether Korpi's conduct advanced or assisted him in exercising his free speech rights, Collier argued the anti-SLAPP statute did not protect Korpi's criminal impersonation of another to deceive the public. "It is not enough that the defendant's conduct violated a civil statute; the defendant's conduct must be criminal to deprive the defendant of the broad protection the anti-SLAPP statute provides for free speech and petition activities. [. . .] Korpi does not concede his conduct was criminal and Collier failed to offer evidence establishing Korpi's conduct was criminal as a matter of law." Accordingly, the trial court erred in denying Korpi's motion without determining Collier presented evidence establishing a probability of prevailing on her claims. "Our conclusion the anti-SLAPP statute applies to Korpi's conduct should not be construed as an approval of his conduct."