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The decision overturns an L.A. Superior Court ruling that denied Radar protection under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, which bars lawsuits arising from the exercise of free speech. The lower court had found that the statute did apply, but also that Clark showed a probability of success on his claim — and it’s the second part that the appellate court disagreed with.
By way of background, Clark was a contestant on American Idol in 2003 and was kicked off the show after news surfaced that he had been arrested on suspicion of battering his younger sister. The charges were dismissed, but Fox removed him from the competition anyway for failing to disclose the arrest.
The fight with Radar began in 2013, after Clark approached the site offering an exclusive interview to disprove the battery allegations against him and the reason he was booted from the show. After several days of interviews and document reviews, Radar didn’t finalize the deal and Clark gave his exclusive to Rumor Fix. Later, Radar included Clark’s battery arrest in a roundup of the “35 Biggest Idol Controversies.”
Clark sued for libel and invasion of privacy and Radar responded with a special motion to strike the complaint under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, arguing that the singer couldn’t prove the statements were false, the article was privileged and, as a public figure, he would have to prove Radar acted with actual malice.
The court denied the motion, finding Clark had proven a probability of success on his claims relating to one statement: a header that read “Corey Clark Disqualified After Beating Up Sister.”
In overturning the ruling, the appellate court found that Clark failed to make any argument regarding his ability to succeed on the merits of his case. “Clark therefore utterly failed to satisfy his burden to state and substantiate a legally sufficient claim,” states the opinion. “On this basis alone, the anti-SLAPP special motion to strike should have been granted.”
The opinion doesn’t stop there, though. The appellate panel also found that the article at issue was not defamatory.
“The trial court erred in analyzing the publication in fragments and focusing solely on one phrase,” states the opinion. “Irrespective of the slight miswording of the initial phrase, the substance of the article is accurate and true.” (Read the full opinion here.)
Source: The Hollywood Reporter