Iloh v. Regents of the University of CaliforniaAnnotate this Case
The Center for Scientific Integrity (CSI) was an organization that reported on academic retractions and accountability. CSI wrote an article about plaintiff-respondent Constance Iloh, a professor at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), after several academic journals retracted articles Iloh had written due to concerns about possible plagiarism or inaccurate citation references. In a follow-up to that article, CSI sent UCI a records request under the California Public Records Act (CPRA) requesting Iloh’s postpublication communications with the journals and UCI. Iloh petitioned for a writ of mandate, declaratory relief, and injunctive relief against UCI to prevent disclosure of her communications, and later added CSI as a real party in interest. She then filed a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent disclosure. Meanwhile, CSI filed a motion to strike Iloh’s petition under the anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute. The Court of Appeal’s first opinion in this case concerned Iloh’s motion for preliminary injunction. The trial court denied that motion on the grounds that Iloh had not established a likelihood of prevailing on the merits, and the Court affirmed that order. In this case, the Court considered CSI’s anti-SLAPP motion. The trial court denied the motion, finding that although protected activity may have led to the petition, it was not the “basis” for the petition. To this, the Court disagreed: in issuing the CPRA request, CSI was engaging in newsgathering so it could report on matters of public interest, such as how a public university funded largely by taxpayer dollars resolved quality or integrity problems in its professors’ publications. CSI was therefore engaged in protected activity when it issued the CPRA request. Iloh filed her petition for mandamus relief to prevent UCI from complying with the CPRA request. “This is the type of lawsuit the anti-SLAPP statute is designed to address, and it should be stricken if Iloh cannot demonstrate a probability of prevailing on her petition.” The Court of Appeal found the trial court had not performed the second prong of the anti-SLAPP analysis. Therefore, the Court reversed the order denying CSI’s anti-SLAPP motion and remanded this case with directions that the trial court consider prong two of the anti-SLAPP statute.