Soukup v. Law Offices of Herbert Hafif, 39 Cal. 4th 260 (2006)

Peggy Soukup, a former employee of the Law Offices of Herbert Hafif, sued Ronald C. Stock for abuse of process and malicious prosecution based upon Stock’s prosecution of an earlier lawsuit against Soukup on behalf of the Hafifs and their law firm. The underlying lawsuit, which involved Soukup’s alleged disclosure to a third party of confidential information that Soukup obtained during her employment with the Hafifs, was itself dismissed in response to Soukup’s special motion to strike under the anti-SLAPP provisions of the Code of Civil Procedure. Although the trial court denied Stock’s special motion to strike the malicious prosecution lawsuit, the Court of Appeal reversed, holding that the later action arose out of Stock’s exercise of his free expression rights on behalf of his clients, the Hafifs. However, the California Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeal, holding that Soukup had demonstrated a probability of prevailing on her malicious prosecution action. Cf. Flatley v. Mauro, 39 Cal. 4th 299 (2006) (attorney’s letter and telephone calls to prominent entertainer demanding $1 million in exchange for not publicly accusing him of rape constituted civil extortion and was not protected activity under anti- SLAPP statute).