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Mark Goldowitz never got a chance to catch his breath Monday. The founder of the California Anti-SLAPP Project faced an uphill struggle representing animal rights activists in Alameda County, Calif., Superior Court. Goldowitz barely made it to the afternoon hearing on time — by the time he made it to the podium, he was still gulping for air. Judge Steven Brick was hearing Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty USA’s anti-SLAPP motion, which accuses Chiron Corp. of trying to muzzle its Web site. Brick offered Goldowitz a cup of water and gave the Berkeley lawyer a few seconds to compose himself. Then Brick took Goldowitz and Chiron attorney Daniel Bookin through nearly two hours of grilling. When Goldowitz tried to blast Chiron for ambushing him with a 90-page fax hours before the hearing, the soft-spoken judge cut Goldowitz short. Brick let the last-minute Chiron brief in. Chiron had to respond to a slew of new issues SHAC brought up a few days before the hearing, the judge said. “Mr. Goldowitz, the state … does not allow for sandbagging,” Brick said. Later in the hearing, Brick said Chiron should be permitted to amend its lawsuit — over Goldowitz’s protests that case law doesn’t allow such changes. “Could I ask why?” Goldowitz interrupted, ticking off a list of cases that backed his position. “You need to look at the procedural posture of those cases,” the judge said calmly. And so it went for more than an hour. Bookin, an O’Melveny & Myers partner, also had time in the hot seat. Brick coolly picked apart O’Melveny’s assertion that free speech was only “incidental” to the underlying lawsuit. Later, the judge probed why the firm was lacking case law to support an argument. “Was that all of the pertinent case law that Lexis … had to offer?” the judge asked. Bookin tried to explain that other attorneys had done the legal research. “You honor, I wasn’t …” “I know you weren’t,” Brick interjected, “but you are the one responsible.” “Your honor, may I address that issue?” Goldowitz piped up. “No,” the judge said. The drama started when SHAC’s Web site posted Chiron Corp. employees’ names, addresses and phone numbers to pressure the biotech firm to cut ties with Huntingdon Life Sciences, an animal testing facility. Chiron wants an injunction against the site because workers have been deluged with harassing phone calls, bullhorn-wielding late-night protesters and vandals. Chiron also alleges that SHAC is linked to the group that claimed responsibility for bombing Chiron’s Emeryville, Calif., headquarters in August. “You are telling me that publishing addresses is a means to an end. What are you saying are the outer bounds of public interest?” the judge asked Goldowitz on Monday. “It is absolutely a public issue to publicize information that is part of the [anti-testing] campaign,” Goldowitz answered, sweeping one arm toward the row of attorneys on Chiron’s O’Melveny legal team. “They are trying hold SHAC USA vicariously liable” for extremists’ acts against Chiron workers,” he added. Brick did not rule Monday, but toward the end of the hearing it appeared that the judge wasn’t convinced the Chiron litigation was a SLAPP suit. There was enough evidence that SHAC was “integrally involved” with the illegal harassment to warrant a hearing on the injunction, Brick said. If Chiron gets an injunction, it will be the second it has successfully argued against the animal rights group. In March, the company persuaded a New Jersey judge to grant an injunction. A similar suit is pending in Washington state. Outside of court, Goldowitz said Chiron’s suits in other states amount to judge-shopping. Those suits were filed after Brick declined to issue a temporary restraining order against SHAC in the Oakland case. Bookin declined to comment on Chiron’s pending cases. If SHAC loses the anti-SLAPP motion, it will appeal, Goldowitz said. “If it doesn’t apply here, where?” he asked.

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