Law School Case Brief
Mitchell v. Hood - 614 F. App'x 137 (5th Cir. 2015)
Louisiana law governs the anti-SLAPP motion, even though it is nominally procedural. The appellate court reviews the merits of a La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 971 motion de novo. The appellate court reviews the district court's interpretation of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure de novo.
Mitchell and Judge AT competed in a run-off in a Louisiana state judicial election. Judge AT won by 266 votes. The day before the polls opened, approximately 3,000 residents of the jurisdiction received a postcard that accused Mitchell of violently attacking an "innocent pregnant woman." The postcard—in an apparent attempt to comply with election laws—indicated that it was "Paid for by B. Hood." After losing the election, Mitchell hired an investigator and learned that "B. Hood" was Brett Hood of Washington, D.C. Mitchell then brought suit on four claims of "abuse of right" under the Louisiana's anti-SLAPP law. Mitchell amended his complaint to include Judge AT because a supporter of Judge AT had admitted to Hood that Judge AT was associated with the design, printing, and/or mailing of the postcard.
Was it proper to implead Judge AT in an anti-SLAPP suit brought against a supporter of Judge AT?
The Court held that Judge AT was not a properly impleaded party under Rule 14. Thus, the Court required she be dismissed as a party. The case was remanded to the district court for proceedings. The Court further held that whether the candidate proved that the resident made defamatory statements in the postcard did not govern the resident's claims against the judge. it noted that the resident's claims against the judge for putting his name on the postcard may succeed or fail in a scenario where the candidate's claims against the resident succeeded or a scenario where the candidate's claims against the resident failed and the judge was no more or less liable to the resident based upon the resident's liability to the candidate. The resident's claims against the judge stood on their own, and the resident's amended complaint did not limit his claims to mitigating any damages that he may need to pay the candidate.
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