Anti-SLAPP motion filed by City of Elk Grove in euthanized dog case denied in tentative ruling

In a tentative ruling issued today, an anti-SLAPP motion filed by the city of Elk Grove was denied. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Richard K. Sueyoshi, Dept 53, issued the ruling. 

The ruling involves Ghesal Kabir vs. City of Elk Grove 2022-00327633-CU-PO and the dog known as Zeus. Elk Grove's animal services took the canine after city personnel designated Zeus as dangerous.

After taking Zeus, the dog was euthanized on October 28, 2022. Before and after the euthanization, the family filed state and federal suits against the city that include claims they were denied due process.

Elk Grove city attorney Jonathan Hobbs filed the Anti-SLAPP motion. Interestingly, motions like this are typically handled by the city's outside counsel Kronck Moskovitz, of which Hobbs was a partner before becoming city attorney.  

SLAPP is an acronym for strategic lawsuits against public participation. Before 1992 legislation, SLAPPs were typically filed by wealthy or powerful plaintiffs to discourage public participation, and anti-SLAPP laws were meant to protect public participation.  

As the defendant in this case, the City of Elk Grove filed the motion. If the city had succeeded, the case would have been dismissed.  

The notification schedule is among the many issues between the family and the city. As noted in the rulings, "The basis of Plaintiff’s contention, however, is that due process requires the deadline to be based off the hearing at which an animal is determined to be dangerous, rather than the date Elk Grove mails a 'Notice of Designating An Animal as Dangerous.'”

Furthermore, Sueyoshi's ruling said:

The Court finds the gravamen of the complaint is a contention that any interpretation of Elk Grove’s municipal codes that permits Elk Grove to impound an animal earlier than 30 days following the hearing required by Elk Grove Municipal Code § 8.060.070 violates the due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution. As it was the case in Cashman, Plaintiff’s challenge regarding the constitutionally-required interpretation of Elk Grove’s ordinances is not subject to a special motion to strike. Elk Grove’s authorities cited in reply are inapposite to the Supreme Court’s holding in Cashman that a cause of action seeking to determine the constitutionality of an ordinance (on its face and as construed by the city) is not subject to a special motion to strike.
While the city's motion was declined, the judge also declined the plaintiff's request for fee recovery, saying Elk Grove's motion was not frivolous. Hobbs has reportedly requested a hearing tomorrow on the ruling. 

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