Court: Feather River Air Quality Management District entitled to anti-SLAPP motion in suit over dust emissions

By Charmaine Little | Nov 8, 2018

SACRAMENTO – On Sept. 11, the 3rd Appellate District Court reversed a ruling from Yuba County Superior Court that denied a special motion to strike an anti-SLAPP statute.

“(Harmun) Takhar has not demonstrated he qualified for an exemption to the anti-SLAPP statute. The causes of action alleged in Takhar’s cross-complaint arise from protected petitioning activity and he has not established a probability of prevailing on the merits of these claims,” the court ruled. "The causes of action alleged in Takhar’s cross-complaint arise from protected petitioning activity and he has not established a probability of prevailing on the merits of these claims.  We shall therefore remand the matter to the trial court with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion and dismiss the cross-complaint."

The People ex rel. Feather River Air Quality Management District originally sued Takhar in 2015 citing public nuisance after the district received several complaints from neighboring property owners regarding dust. The district previously offered a settlement in August 2014, which Takhar did not take.

Takhar filed his own cross-complaint that asserted a taxpayer action for waste of public funds and also asked for declaratory relief


Judge Elena J. Duarte   California Courts

Still, it was the cross-complaint that sparked the district’s anti-SLAPP motion. It said the cross-complaint came from its petitioning activity that was protected. While the lower court denied the anti-SLAPP motion, the Appeals Court agreed with the district and reversed the trial court’s order.

The Appeals Court also pointed out Takhar doesn’t even challenge the district’s filing against him and whether it’s related to protected petitioning activity. It added that investigation into Takhar’s dust emission was needed so the district could resolve if Takhar was actually breaking air pollution control laws.

Since the investigation determined he was, the district issued the violation and the claim. The Appeals Court determined there was no proof that suggested that any of the district’s actions were baseless or that they had improper reasons to go after Takhar legally.

Considering this and other factors, the Appeals Court reversed and vacated the lower court’s denial of the district’s anti-SLAPP motion. The trial court was also ordered to distribute a new order that would grant the anti-SLAPP motion and dismiss Takhar’s cross-complaint.

Judge Andrea Lynn Hoch authored the opinion. Judges William J. Murray Jr. and Elena J. Duarte concurred.

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