In a matter of first impression that found the court looking to the recent high-profile defamation trial involving Hollywood exes Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, a federal judge has held that attorney fees cannot be recouped under the state’s anti-SLAPP statute where the complaint was voluntary dismissed by the plaintiff.

The court followed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and other courts in interpreting the Virginia anti-SLAPP statute as requiring a case to be dismissed pursuant to anti-SLAPP immunity in order for attorney fees to be potentially recoverable.