Appeals Court Says Plaintiff In Anti-SLAPP Lawsuit Can't Lower Fee Award Just By Voluntarily Dismissing Lawsuit
from the piper-still-needs-paying,-son dept
In an unpublished opinion, the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court has upheld awarded fees in an anti-SLAPP case.
Anti-SLAPP attorney fees awarded to a newspaper conglomerate as part of its legal battle with an Iranian-American attorney will stand, the Ninth Circuit ruled.
Shahrokh Mireskandari is a former partner in London firm Dean & Dean but was disbarred in England after an investigation by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority suggested that he was involved in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme.
Mireskandari claims the investigation was prompted by his efforts to prove that the Authority investigates minority attorneys more vigorously than white ones.
However, according to articles published by the British tabloid the Daily Mail — which is owned by Associated Newspapers (now known as DMG Media) — Mireskandari obtained his law qualifications from a mail-drop university in Hawaii and ran a telemarketing scam that misled people into believing they had won vacations.
Obviously unhappy with this portrayal, Mireskandari sued. And failed. The paper was mostly successful with its motion to dismiss. Anything left undecided by the lower court's decision is moot now because Mireskandari voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit, presumably because it was apparent he wouldn't win.
Both parties appealed the decision. The paper was looking for more fees to be awarded and Mireskandari was, unsurprisingly, hoping to mitigate the financial damage he'd inflicted on himself. Fortunately, the appeals court [PDF] has upheld the original fee shift.
Mireskandari asserts that the district court abused its discretion when it awarded the anti-SLAPP attorney’s fees against him because ANL did not succeed in striking all of his claims pursuant to its anti-SLAPP motion, and because the fees are unreasonably large. Of course, the mere fact that Mireskandari has now dismissed the action does not affect ANL’s right to recover appropriate fees, but the award is subject to the trial court’s broad discretion, and must be reasonable in amount.
This is the important part of this decision. To allow plaintiffs to simply abandon disingenuous lawsuits would undermine the aim of anti-SLAPP laws. This tactic, of course, isn't solely limited to these types of lawsuits. We've seen no less than the US government voluntarily dismiss cases without prejudice (leaving it the option to try again later) in hopes of preventing legal fees from being awarded. In some cases, plaintiffs have gotten away with this. Voluntarily dismissing a lawsuit that a plaintiff appears destined to lose allows legal bullies to force defendants to spend large amounts of time and money defending themselves while preserving the plaintiff's option to walk away before being ordered to compensate the opposing party.
No such luck for Mireskandari.
[W]e cannot say that the fee award was unreasonably large under the circumstances. The district court reduced ANL’s fee award by fifteen percent across the board because it determined that there was some overbilling. When properly explained, that approach is satisfactory. See Gates v. Deukmejian, 987 F.2d 1392, 1398 (9th Cir. 1992). The district court carefully delineated its reasoning in deciding that a reduction was required. Overall, it said enough to allow our review of its exercise of discretion.
Not only that, but Mireskandari is still personally responsible for previous litigation misadventures.
Mireskandari also asserts that the district court erred when it imposed sanctions upon him for his violation of the court’s scheduling and other pretrial orders. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(f)(1)(c), 16(f)(2). He argues that once he dismissed the complaint, sanctions for his past breaches of the district court’s orders were improper. We see no justification for holding that a voluntary dismissal precludes issuance of a sanctions order.
With this failed appeal, Mireskandari is on the hook for legal fees in multiple nations.
A bogus lawyer who was ordered to pay £1.4million in legal costs after being exposed by the Daily Mail and then struck off has been ordered to pay a further massive sum after abandoning an appeal.
Shahrokh Mireskandari, 53, has been given until April 4 to pay more than £230,000 in additional costs after being condemned by a leading judge for 'wholly abusive, unreasonable and manipulative conduct', including attempting to get the appeal hearing adjourned.
And his own legal bills are likely impressive in their own right.
Mireskandari was represented by 17 barristers at the misconduct hearing, but panel chairman Jacqueline Devonish said that allegations of dishonesty had been proved.
Courthouse News also reports that Mireskandari is listed as the plaintiff in seven related US lawsuits -- all of them filed within the last five years. There's nothing quite like quitting (at least once) while you're seriously behind.