A split Washington state Supreme Court ruled that a government contractor—in this case, a law firm hired to perform an independent investigation of the Washington Attorney General’s Office—qualifies as a “person” under the state’s 1989 anti-SLAPP statute and is entitled to civil immunity from retaliatory litigation.

In a 5-4 ruling filed Jan. 28, the majority reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in Leishman v. Ogden Murphy Wallace. The court was asked whether to exclude an otherwise covered individual or organization from immunity under the state’s anti-SLAPP law—RCW 4.24.510—because it was paid under a contract with the government to conduct an investigation and report the findings to a government agency. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.”