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California's anti-SLAPP statute can be one of the most powerful tools in a civil litigator's toolbox. The law is meant to counteract "strategic lawsuits against public participation" such as libel claims against a coworker who opens up an internal investigation, or intentional infliction of emotional distress suits over a negative online review.

California's anti-SLAPP statute is the oldest in the nation and arguably the best. Not only can it result in the dismissal of a suit, an anti-SLAPP motion halts proceedings and, if successful, can achieve an award of attorney's fees. Knowing how to wield this weapon, or how to disarm it, could be the difference between winning and losing a case.

California Men's Only College Can Admit Women

Opening the rarest opportunity for college-bound women in America, a state appeals court said a tiny all-men's college in California may now accept women.

Deep Springs College, the smallest college in the United States, had been open to men only since its founding in 1917. The school admits 12 to 15 people a year, and has a student body of 25 to 30 in its two-year program.

The private college was established by a trust that said it was "for the education of promising young men," but the college trustees voted 7-2 to open the school for women in 2011. Lawsuits ensued, and California's Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed a decision for coeducation in Hitz v. Hoekstra.

San Diego's Pension Reform Plan Upheld

In a win for San Diego voters, a state appeals court turned back public employees' claims to make the city pay for their pensions.

Public employee unions had demanded the mayor and city council meet and confer about Proposition B, a ballot measure that would shift pension costs away from the city. City officials declined, and voters overwhelmingly approved the initiative.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal said the city had no obligation to consider the unions' demands, effectively upholding the ballot initiative. Unlike city-sponsored measures, the court said, citizen's initiatives do not invoke the "meet and confer" requirements of the Meyers-Milias-Brown Act.

PG&E Has No Immunity for Campsite Injury

A state appeals court ruled that a utility company was not immune from liability for injuries to a boy who was severely injured when a tree fell on him at a campground.

The California First District Court of Appeal said a statute that immunizes property owners from liability to recreational users did not apply to Pacific Gas and Electric Company. The statute includes an exception when people pay to use the property, which happened when the 12-year-old boy and his family paid the campground fee.

The utility company argued it was immune because it did not receive the fee, but the appeals court said receipt of the fee was not the point of the exception in Civil Code Section 846. The statute created an exception for the immunity, the court said, and it did not matter who received the consideration.

American Apparel's Founder Loses Defamation Case in His Termination

A state appeals court said American Apparel's founder cannot sue for defamation based on a press release that announced his termination.

The California Second District Court of Appeal said Dov Charney's case, Charney v. Standard General, was barred as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation and affirmed a trial court's order dismissing the case. Judge Terry Green had thrown out the case because Charney could not show a likelihood of prevailing.

"I think there's more likelihood that I'd be the first American astronaut on Mars before this plaintiff wins this lawsuit," he said.

State Supreme Court Expands Shoplifting, Reducing Penalties

Applying a voter-approved initiative designed to ease prison overcrowding, the California Supreme Court effectively reduced a felon's crime to a misdemeanor by expanding the definition of shoplifting.

The high court said that shoplifting does not apply only to taking merchandise from stores. Under Proposition 47, the court said, it also means taking property worth less than $950 in other ways.

"Here we hold the electorate similarly intended that the shoplifting statute apply to an entry to commit a nonlarcenous act," Justice Carol Corrigan said for the 5-2 majority.

Ending years of litigation against the largest state bar association in the nation, an arbitrator has thrown out a whistleblower case against the California State Bar by its former executive director.

Joe Dunn, who is also a former state senator, alleged that the bar association fired him for reporting problems with the agency's chief trial counsel and for accusing the state bar of wasteful spending. The arbitrator denied Dunn's claims and concluded the bar had good reason to fire him.

Edward Infante, with a private arbitration service, said Dunn failed to keep the board informed on "matters of significance," including the California Supreme Court's opposition to proposed legislation on unauthorized practice of law. Infante also found that he had not -- contrary to Dunn's assertions -- spoken to the high court about significant administrative matters.

Youth Soccer Must Check Criminal Backgrounds of Adult Coaches

After a coach was convicted of sexually abusing a 12-year-old player, a state appeals court said a youth soccer association must conduct criminal background checks on all coaches and other adults in its programs.

The California Sixth District Court of Appeal, ruling in Doe v. United States Youth Soccer Association, said the organization has a duty to protect children by requiring criminal background checks. The appellate court reversed and remanded the case, which had been dismissed on demurrer.

"We hold that defendants had a duty to conduct criminal background checks of all adults who would have contact with children involved in their programs," Judge Nathan Mihara wrote for the court.

California Opens Roads to Driverless Cars

Californians knew it was coming, but nobody expected it to be so soon. Move over, a driverless car is about to pass you.

The Department of Motor Vehicles has announced new regulations, which go into effect this fall, that allow car manufacturers to certify their own cars. Certification was a roadblock to the industry, which already has found open roads in other states.

"Since the adoption of the current testing regulations, the capabilities of autonomous technology has proceeded to the point where manufacturers have developed systems that are capable of operating without the presence of a driver inside the vehicle," the DMV said in a statement.

Fox-Netflix Poaching Suit Show Must Go On, Appeals Court Rules

A California appeals court turned down a request to intervene in a lawsuit between 20th Century Fox and Netflix.

The Second District Court of Appeals said Fox, which wanted to stay the lawsuit and challenge a trial court's rulings, may appeal if it loses in the trial court.

Fox had sued Netflix in September 2016, alleging the company had poached Fox executives Tara Flynn and Marco Waltenberg. Netflix counter-sued, claiming Fox's employment agreements violate state law.