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The law firm under attack for alleged abuses of California’s unfair competition law has filed an anti-SLAPP motion against Attorney General Bill Lockyer, claiming the AG is interfering with its controversial lawsuits against small businesses. The firm, Beverly Hills’ Trevor Law Group, is represented by Kevin Gerry, a solo also based in Beverly Hills. Gerry said Lockyer’s suit against Trevor is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation that meddles with the firm’s “constitutionally protected public activity” of filing thousands of lawsuits against businesses over regulatory violations. “The sole purpose of plaintiff’s SLAPP suit is to chill the defendants’ speech and petition for redress, as well as to prevent these defendants … from filing lawsuits … that the [AG] simply doesn’t agree with,” according to Gerry’s motion. Lockyer filed his lawsuit in February after an investigation into Trevor’s use of the unfair competition law, Business & Professions Code � 17200. In a move the AG himself called “ironic,” Lockyer used 17200 to go after the Trevor attorneys. Sacramento observers saw Lockyer’s move as a political maneuver as much as a legal action. That’s because legislators and interest groups are right now debating whether to reform the statute because of the activities of lawyers like the three Trevor partners, Damian Trevor, Allan Hendrickson and Shane Han. By using 17200 to target alleged improper 17200 behavior, Lockyer is demonstrating that the statute should not be gutted. The powerful trial lawyers lobby, which is allied with Lockyer, opposes several bills proposed by legislators that would change the statute. Gerry says the Trevor lawyers, who also face disbarment, are victims of politics. “This complaint by the attorney general is the classic situation of an oppressive lawsuit that is intended to, and does chill the right to free speech by attempting to punish these defendants for petitioning the government, via the Judiciary Branch, for the redress of grievances,” Gerry wrote in the motion. AG spokesman Tom Dresslar said Lockyer sued because of the methods employed by the Trevor attorneys. “They were abusing the process, trying to extract settlements from small businesses and breaking the law,” Dresslar said. “The [SLAPP] statute doesn’t protect that kind of activity.” But Gerry’s motion may have a fatal flaw. Part of California’s SLAPP statute, Code of Civil Procedure � 425.16, makes an exemption for AG suits. In the motion, Gerry says the exemption should not apply in this situation because that would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Lawyers familiar with SLAPP don’t think Gerry’s motion will go very far because of the AG exemption, which an appeals court upheld in 2001 in People v. Health Laboratories of North America, Inc., 87 Cal.App.4th 442. In the motion, Gerry argues that decision shouldn’t apply because Health Laboratories dealt with commercial speech. Mark Goldowitz, director of the California Anti-SLAPP Project, said Gerry is on dangerous ground. “They may even be in danger of getting socked for attorney fees,” Goldowitz said. “I think it’s highly likely they’ll lose their motion.” The case is People of the State of California v. Trevor Law Group et. al., BC290989, in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

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