Declaratory Relief Action Regarding The Validity Of An Attorney Lien Is Not A SLAPP

Oakland, California (Originally published, December 6, 2014). The 2d District held on December 5, 2014 that an attorney’s lawsuit seeking a declaration regarding the validity of an attorney lien filed by prior attorneys is not a SLAPP – or “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” The case is Drell v. Cohen, B253688 (2nd Dist. Dec. 5, 2014). In Drell, the plaintiff, an attorney, took over the representation of a client after the defendants withdrew as the client’s attorney. The former attorneys notified one of the insurers. When a settlement was reached, the insurer made out the settlement check payable to the defendants and the client rather than to the current attorney.

The current attorney then filed a declaratory relief claim challenging the validity of the attorney fee lien. The trial court denied the defendants’ ensuing Special Motion to Strike. Affirming, the 2nd District reasoned a complaint is not a SLAPP unless the gravamen of it challenges protected activity. While an attorney lien itself might be protected activity, the plaintiff’s declaratory relief action did not challenge the filing of the lien but rather sought a declaratory relief regarding the parties’ right to attorneys fees. The lien was key evidence “but the complaint does not seek to prevent defendants from exercising their right to assert their lien.”
John Claassen, an experienced Anti-SLAPP litigator, practices civil litigation from the offices of Claassen, P.C. in Oakland, California. Please click here if you have questions about the firm’s Anti-SLAPP practice. Copyright Claassen, Professional Corporation, 2014-15. All rights reserved. While this blog entry is intended for informational purposes only, portions of it may constitute “communications” within the meaning of Cal. R. of Prof. Conduct 1-400. No statement made in this Advertisement constitutes legal advice. Similarly, no statement made herein is intended to guarantee, serve as a warranty, or serve as a prediction of the outcome of any particular matter. This Advertisement is not intended for any matter that would require the rendition of legal services outside of the State of California under the laws of any jurisdiction other than the State of California.

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