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Briggs v. Eden Council for Hope & Opportunity (1999) [ 19 Cal.4th 1106 ]

[No. S062156. Jan 21, 1999.]

DAN BRIGGS et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. EDEN COUNCIL FOR HOPE AND OPPORTUNITY, Defendant and Respondent.

(Superior Court of Alameda County, No. H-180743-5, Bonnie Lewman, Judge.)

(Opinion by Werdegar, J., with George, C. J., Mosk, Kennard and Chin, JJ., concurring. Concurring and dissenting opinion by Baxter, J., with Brown, J., concurring.)


COUNSEL

Knox, Anderson & Blake, Anderson & Blake and Kevin Anderson for Plaintiffs and Appellants.
Brancart & Brancart, Christopher Brancart, Elizabeth Brancart; Mark Goldowitz, John C. Barker and Elizabeth Bader for Defendant and Respendent.

Levy, Ram & Olson and Karl Olson for California Newspaper Publishers Association et al., as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

James D. Smith for Fair Housing Organizations as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Catherine I. Hanson and Astrid G. Meghrigian for California Medical Association as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Julia Mandeville Damasco for City of Hayward, City of Pleasanton, City of Santa Clara and City and County of San Francisco as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.

Hagenbaugh & Murphy, Daniel A. Leipold and Cathy L. Shipe for Cult Awareness Network, Inc., and F.A.C.T.Net, Inc., as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Respondent.


OPINION

MAJORITY:

WERDEGAR, J.—
Must a defendant, moving specially under Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16 (hereafter section 425.16 or the anti-SLAPP fn 1 statute) to strike a cause of action arising from a statement made before, or in connection with an issue under consideration by, a legally authorized official proceeding, demonstrate separately that the statement concerned an issue of public significance? In accordance with the plain language of the statute and in consonance with discernible legislative intent, as well as for reasons of sound public policy, we conclude not. Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.





Background fn 2 Plaintiffs Dan and Judy Briggs own residential rental properties. Defendant Eden Council for Hope and Opportunity (ECHO), a nonprofit corporation partly funded by city and county grants, counsels tenants and mediates landlord-tenant disputes. Seeking damages for defamation and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, plaintiffs allege ECHO harassed and defamed them.


Plaintiffs allege: In 1990, ECHO counseled Pamela Ford, an African-American woman who rented an apartment from plaintiffs. After Ford {Page 19 Cal.4th 1110}complained to ECHO that plaintiffs were giving her a less favorable electricity offset than that given to a Caucasian tenant, ECHO assisted Ford in filing a complaint with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and in prosecuting a small claims court action against plaintiffs. HUD exonerated plaintiffs, but Ford prevailed in small claims court. In an unrelated civil action, plaintiffs sought ECHO's files, ultimately obtaining a court order compelling their production and sanctioning ECHO. Plaintiffs allege that during HUD's investigation of Ford's complaint, ECHO employees referred to Dan Briggs as a "racist," and that other defamatory statements, including that Briggs "is a redneck and doesn't like women," were made to a HUD investigator and other persons.

In 1991, Dan Briggs telephoned ECHO asking for the names and addresses of ECHO's directors so he could complain to them about ECHO's failure to produce the earlier requested documents. Briggs asked to speak with Caroline Peattie, ECHO's assistant executive director. ECHO's receptionist gave Peattie a telephone message slip, and Peattie returned Briggs's call. The subsequently disclosed files revealed that, while talking with Briggs, Peattie wrote and circled on the telephone message slip the letters "KKK." Other ECHO staff members saw the message slip and the "KKK" notation.

The minutes of the ECHO board meetings reveal that at one meeting ECHO's directors discussed whether Dan Briggs was mentally unbalanced. The executive director's notes recorded the view that Briggs was on a "witchhunt." At another meeting, ECHO's executive director stated that Briggs had made racist comments to the city's staff while complaining about city funding of ECHO.

Another of plaintiffs' tenants, Diana Bond, punctured the refrigerator in her apartment while trying to defrost it. The refrigerator was repaired, but malfunctioned a year later. When plaintiffs refused to repair or replace the refrigerator, Bond consulted ECHO. Bond ultimately vacated the apartment, taking the refrigerator with her. Plaintiffs deducted the costs related to the refrigerator from Bond's security deposit, whereupon Bond successfully sued plaintiffs in small claims court. Plaintiffs allege ECHO maliciously gave Bond false advice in connection with this matter.

When plaintiffs' tenants Kirk and Gay-Rita Poates consulted ECHO, a staff member commented, "We know what kind of people you're dealing with." In another incident, involving a dispute between two roommates who also were tenants of plaintiffs, an ECHO staff member told one of the roommates that "this [has] happened [before] with Dan and Judy." The tenant understood the remark to be negative. {Page 19 Cal.4th 1111}

After plaintiffs filed this action, ECHO filed a special motion to strike the complaint pursuant to the anti-SLAPP statute. In support, ECHO argued that plaintiffs' claims were based upon statements made in connection with issues pending before or under consideration by executive and judicial bodies (section 425.16, subd. (e)(1), (2)), and that plaintiffs had not established a probability they would prevail on their claims (section 425.16, subd. (b)(1)). In opposition, plaintiffs argued that ECHO's alleged activities did not involve matters of "public significance" (section 425.16, subd. (a)). The trial court granted ECHO's motion, dismissed the complaint, and awarded ECHO attorney fees and costs.

Plaintiffs filed two appeals, one challenging the judgment of dismissal, the other the attorney fees award. The Court of Appeal consolidated the appeals and reversed both the judgment of dismissal and the order awarding attorney fees and costs. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court had erred in striking the complaint under section 425.16, because ECHO had not made a prima facie showing that this lawsuit arose from an act by ECHO in furtherance of its constitutional petition or speech rights in connection with a public issue. Thus, the Court of Appeal impliedly held that a cause of action is not subject to being struck under the anti-SLAPP statute unless it arises from a statement or writing by the defendant which, substantively, addresses an issue of public significance, even if the statement or writing is made before or in connection with an issue under consideration by an official body or proceeding. fn 3

We granted ECHO's petition for review.

Discussion

Section 425.16 fn 4 provides, inter alia, that "A cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person's right {Page 19 Cal.4th 1112}of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue shall be subject to a special motion to strike, unless the court determines that the plaintiff has established that there is a probability that the plaintiff will prevail on the claim." (section 425.16, subd. (b)(1).) "As used in this section, 'act in furtherance of a person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue' includes: (1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law; (2) any written or oral statement {Page 19 Cal.4th 1113}or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law ...." (Id., subd. (e).)

Courts of Appeal applying section 425.16 have divided on the question whether a defendant who moves under the statute to strike a cause of action arising from a statement made before, or in connection with an issue under consideration by, an "official proceeding" must separately demonstrate that the statement was made in connection with a "public" issue. (Compare Zhao v. Wong (1996) 48 Cal.App.4th 1114 [55 Cal.Rptr.2d 909] [section 425.16 applies only to causes of action arising from statements or writings on issues of public significance] with Braun v. Chronicle Publishing Co. (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 1036 [61 Cal.Rptr.2d 58] (Braun v. Chronicle) [section 425.16 applies to any cause of action arising from a statement or writing connected to an issue under consideration by an official proceeding].) The Court of Appeal in this matter followed Zhao v. Wong, holding that "a lawsuit qualifies as a SLAPP suit only if it challenges a statement made in connection with a public issue made in an official proceeding or a statement made in connection with a public issue under review in an official proceeding."
For the following reasons, we conclude the Court of Appeal erred.

1. Statute's Plain Language

First, the plain, unambiguous language of section 425.16 encompasses plaintiffs' causes of action against ECHO, without any separate "public issue" requirement. Section 425.16, subdivision (b)(1) expressly makes subject to a special motion to strike "[a] cause of action against a person arising from any act of that person in furtherance of the person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue ...." As noted, for the statute's purposes, an " 'act in furtherance of a person's right of petition or free speech under the United States or California Constitution in connection with a public issue' includes: (1) any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive or judicial proceeding, or any other official proceeding authorized by law; [and] (2) any written or oral statement or writing made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law ...." (section 425.16, subd. (e), italics added.) Thus, plainly read, section 425.16 encompasses any cause of action against a person arising from any statement or writing made in, or in connection with an issue under consideration or review by, an official proceeding or body. {Page 19 Cal.4th 1114}

Construing clause (2) of section 425.16, subdivision (e), quoted above, the court in Zhao v. Wong, nevertheless opined that, even though the clause "contains no reference to 'public issue' or an equivalent phrase," it does not "eliminate[] the requirement, expressed in the language subject to definition, that the oral statement or writing must be 'in connection with a public issue.' The operative language in subdivision (b) ... continues to require that the issue in question, i.e. 'an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other official proceeding authorized by law,' be a public issue." (Zhao v. Wong, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th at p. 1127, fn. omitted; accord, Linsco/Private Ledger, Inc. v. Investors Arbitration Services, Inc. (1996) 50 Cal.App.4th 1633, 1639 [58 Cal.Rptr.2d 613]; Ericsson GE Mobile Communications, Inc. v. C.S.I. Telecommunications Engineers (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1591, 1601 [57 Cal.Rptr.2d 491].)

Neither Zhao v. Wong nor its progeny provides authority, legal or grammatical, for such a strained construction. As explained, the statute plainly reads otherwise. Moreover, for us to adopt the Zhao court's novel understanding would contravene a "longstanding rule of statutory construction—the 'last antecedent rule'—[which] provides that 'qualifying words and phrases and clauses are to be applied to the words or phrases immediately preceding and are not to be construed as extending to or including others more remote.' " (White v. County of Sacramento (1982) 31 Cal.3d 676, 680 [183 Cal.Rptr. 520, 646 P.2d 191], quoting Board of Port Commrs. v. Williams (1937) 9 Cal.2d 381, 389 [70 P.2d 918].) And as will appear, the Legislature expressly has rejected Zhao v. Wong's analysis and narrowing approach. (See generally, section 425.16, subd. (a); Assem. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 1296 (1997-1998 Reg. Sess.) for July 2, 1997, hg., pp. 3-4.)

The record establishes that plaintiffs' three causes of action against ECHO all "arise from"—i.e., are based upon—statements or writings that ECHO personnel made in official proceedings or in connection with issues under consideration or review by executive or judicial bodies or proceedings.

Specifically, plaintiffs in their complaint base their defamation cause of action on ECHO's alleged assisting of tenant Ford "to institute legal action with ... HUD ... against the plaintiffs," and ECHO's alleged "defamatory statements ... made to a HUD investigator and other unknown persons" in connection with Ford's HUD action, "includ[ing] the term 'KKK' being handwritten and circled next to plaintiff Dan Briggs' name on a {Page 19 Cal.4th 1115}telephone message note." fn 5 They base their intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress causes of action on, first, ECHO's alleged provision to tenant Bond of "information with regard to the habitability of [Bond]'s apartment because of a broken refrigerator" about which the Court of Appeal noted Bond had successfully sued plaintiffs in small claims court; second, ECHO's alleged providing false information and direction to two different tenants involved in a dispute over a security deposit; and, third, ECHO's alleged "failure to comply with a deposition subpoena for production of documents served in an unrelated civil action."

Thus, plaintiffs' causes of action against ECHO all arise from ECHO's statements or writings made in connection with issues under consideration or review by official bodies or proceedings—specifically, HUD or the civil courts. Plaintiffs concede that "petitioning activity involves lobbying the government, suing, [and] testifying." As pertinent here, " '[t]he constitutional right to petition ... includes the basic act of filing litigation or otherwise seeking administrative action.' " (Dove Audio, Inc. v. Rosenfeld, Meyer & Susman (1996) 47 Cal.App.4th 777, 784 [54 Cal.Rptr.2d 830], quoting Ludwig v. Superior Court (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 8, 19 [43 Cal.Rptr.2d 350].) Even ECHO's counseling of tenant Bond, apparently, was in anticipation of litigation, and courts considering the question have concluded that "[j]ust as communications preparatory to or in anticipation of the bringing of an action or other official proceeding are within the protection of the litigation privilege of Civil Code section 47, subdivision (b) [citation], ... such statements are equally entitled to the benefits of section 425.16." (Dove Audio, Inc., supra, at p. 784, citing Rubin v. Green (1993) 4 Cal.4th 1187, 1194-1195 [17 Cal.Rptr.2d 828, 847 P.2d 1044] and Ludwig v. Superior Court, supra, 37 Cal.App.4th at p. 19; see also Mission Oaks Ranch, Ltd. v. County of Santa Barbara (1998) 65 Cal.App.4th 713, 728 [77 Cal.Rptr.2d 1].)

Thus, to the extent that, as the trial court impliedly found, plaintiffs failed to establish a probability of prevailing on their claim (section 425.16, subd. (b)(1)), fn 6 it follows that their causes of action are, in accordance with section 425.16's plain language, "subject to [ECHO's] special motion to strike" (ibid.). {Page 19 Cal.4th 1116}

Plaintiffs, however, citing Zhao v. Wong, argue that section 425.16 does not apply to events that transpire between private individuals. The Court of Appeal in Zhao opined that "the Legislature contemplated that the statute would apply only to a limited sphere of activities covered by certain protections of the First Amendment, i.e., activities described by the statement of legislative purpose" (Zhao v. Wong, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th at p. 1129), which speaks of encouraging "participation in matters of public significance" (section 425.16, subd. (a)). According to plaintiffs, section 425.16 protects only statements or writings that defend the speaker's or writer's own free speech or petition rights or that are otherwise "vital to allow citizens to make informed decisions within a government office." Plaintiffs insist tenant counseling activities like ECHO's are not protected by section 425.16 because they neither promoted ECHO's own constitutional right of free speech nor informed the public about possible wrongdoing.
Even assuming, for purposes of argument, that plaintiffs accurately have characterized ECHO's activities as constituting neither self-interested nor general political speech, we cannot conclude such activities thereby necessarily fall outside the protection of the anti-SLAPP statute. Contrary to plaintiffs' implied suggestion, the statute does not require that a defendant moving to strike under section 425.16 demonstrate that its protected statements or writings were made on its own behalf (rather than, for example, on behalf of its clients or the general public). We agree, moreover, with the court in Braun v. Chronicle that "Zhao is incorrect in its assertion that the only activities qualifying for statutory protection are those which meet the lofty standard of pertaining to the heart of self-government." (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, 52 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1046-1047.)

As the Braun court explained: "At least as to acts covered by clauses one and two of section 425.16, subdivision (e), the statute requires simply any writing or statement made in, or in connection with an issue under consideration or review by, the specified proceeding or body. Thus these clauses safeguard free speech and petition conduct aimed at advancing self government, as well as conduct aimed at more mundane pursuits. Under the plain terms of the statute it is the context or setting itself that makes the issue a public issue: all that matters is that the First Amendment activity take place in an official proceeding or be made in connection with an issue being reviewed by an official proceeding. [] The answer to Zhao's concern over how to harmonize the language of section 425.16, subdivision (e), clause {Page 19 Cal.4th 1117}two with the statement of legislative intent contained in subdivision (a) is now apparent: The Legislature when crafting the clause two definition clearly and unambiguously resorted to an easily understandable concept of what constitutes a public issue. Specifically, it equated a public issue with the authorized official proceeding to which it connects." (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, 52 Cal.App.4th at p. 1047, italics in original.)

Thus, contrary to the Court of Appeal's construction, "the statutory language is clear. [Citation.] The statute does not limit its application to certain types of petition activity." (Beilenson v. Superior Court (1996) 44 Cal.App.4th 944, 949 [52 Cal.Rptr.2d 357], italics added; see also Lafayette Morehouse, Inc. v. Chronicle Publishing Co. (1995) 37 Cal.App.4th 855, 863 [44 Cal.Rptr.2d 46] [anti-SLAPP law protects newspaper's statements relating to issue under consideration by county board of supervisors and federal courts]; Church of Scientology v. Wollersheim (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 628, 647-648 [49 Cal.Rptr.2d 620] [section 425.16 applies to action to set aside prior personal injury judgment, which resulted from defendant's exercise of his First Amendment litigation rights].)
2. Principles of Statutory Construction

Second, the Court of Appeal's analysis contravenes fundamental principles of statutory construction. (2) Where different words or phrases are used in the same connection in different parts of a statute, it is presumed the Legislature intended a different meaning. (Playboy Enterprises, Inc. v. Superior Court (1984) 154 Cal.App.3d 14, 21 [201 Cal.Rptr. 207].) Clauses (3) and (4) of section 425.16, subdivision (e), concerning statements made in public fora and "other conduct" implicating speech or petition rights, include an express "issue of public interest" limitation; clauses (1) and (2), concerning statements made before or in connection with issues under review by official proceedings, contain no such limitation. In light of this variation in phraseology, it must be presumed the Legislature intended different "issue" requirements to apply to anti-SLAPP motions brought under clauses (3) and (4) of subdivision (e) than to motions brought under clauses (1) and (2). (Playboy Enterprises, Inc., supra, at p. 21.) That the Legislature, when amending section 425.16 in 1997 to add the substance of clause (4), was at pains simultaneously to separate, by parenthetical numbering, subdivision (e)'s resulting four clauses buttresses the point by emphasizing the grammatical and analytical independence of the clauses.

If, as plaintiffs contend, the operative language in section 425.16, subdivision (b), referring to a person's exercise of First Amendment rights "in connection with a public issue," were meant to function as a separate proof {Page 19 Cal.4th 1118}requirement applicable to motions brought under all four clauses of subdivision (e), no purpose would be served by the Legislature's specification in clauses (3) and (4) that covered issues must be "of public interest." (3)" 'Courts should give meaning to every word of a statute if possible, and should avoid a construction making any word surplusage.' " (Reno v. Baird (1998) 18 Cal.4th 640, 658 [76 Cal.Rptr.2d 499, 957 P.2d 1333], quoting Arnett v. Dal Cielo (1996) 14 Cal.4th 4, 22 [56 Cal.Rptr.2d 706, 923 P.2d 1].) Accordingly, we reject plaintiffs' contention and adopt, instead, a construction that gives meaning and assigns import to the phrase "of public interest" in subdivision (e)(3) and (4) of section 425.16.

Contrary to plaintiffs' suggestion that the Legislature, when enacting section 425.16, expressed in the statute's preamble a desire "to encourage continued participation in matters of public significance" (section 425.16, subd. (a)) does not imply the Legislature intended to impose, in the statute's operative sections, an across-the-board "issue of public interest" pleading requirement. Construing clauses (1) and (2) of section 425.16, subdivision (e) as lacking such a requirement does not diminish their effectiveness in encouraging participation in public affairs. Any matter pending before an official proceeding possesses some measure of "public significance" owing solely to the public nature of the proceeding, and free discussion of such matters furthers effective exercise of the petition rights section 425.16 was intended to protect. The Legislature's stated intent is best served, therefore, by a construction of section 425.16 that broadly encompasses participation in official proceedings, generally, whether or not such participation remains strictly focused on "public" issues.

As the Court of Appeal in Braun v. Chronicle explained: "The term 'significance' supports multiple meanings. It can mean '[t]he meaning or import of something' " and "[i]t can also mean '[i]mportance, consequence.' " (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, 52 Cal.App.4th at p. 1048, quoting 15 Oxford English Dict. (2d ed. 1989) p. 458.) Thus, a matter may have "public meaning or significance within the language of section 425.16, subdivision (a) because and solely because ... it occurs within the context of the proceedings delineated in clause one ... or ... in connection with an issue under consideration or review by one of the bodies or proceedings delineated in clause two." (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, at p. 1048.)

Of course, "legislative intent is not gleaned solely from the preamble of a statute; it is gleaned from the statute as a whole, which includes the particular directives." (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, 52 Cal.App.4th at p. 1048.) And "every statute should be construed with reference to the whole system of law of which it is a part so that all may be harmonized and have {Page 19 Cal.4th 1119}effect." (Stafford v. Realty Bond Service Corp. (1952) 39 Cal.2d 797, 805 [249 P.2d 241].) In light of these fundamental principles, "the meaning ascribed to the concept of 'public significance' in the preamble must accommodate the singular, clearly defined protected activities set forth in each clause of section 425.16, subdivision (e)." (Braun v. Chronicle, supra, at p. 1048.) Construing the term "significance" in the preamble to denote simply "importance" (15 Oxford English Dict., supra, at p. 458) harmonizes the term with a plain reading of subdivision (e)(1) and (2) that imports no additional "public issue" requirement, because such a construction accounts for the measure of public significance possessed by "any written or oral statement or writing" (section 425.16, subd. (e)(1) and (2), italics added) that is made before, or in connection with, an official proceeding.

3. Legislative Intent

Third, the Court of Appeal's analysis contravenes the specific legislative intent expressly stated in section 425.16, as well as that implied by the statute's legislative history as revealed by legislative history materials in the record.
In 1997, after the Court of Appeal's decision in this case, the Legislature amended section 425.16, effecting no substantive changes to the anti-SLAPP scheme, but providing that the statute "shall be construed broadly." (section 425.16, subd. (a), as amended by Stats. 1997, ch. 271, section 1; cf. Bradbury v. Superior Court (1996) 49 Cal.App.4th 1108, 1114, fn. 3 [57 Cal.Rptr.2d 207] [an appellate court, whenever possible, should interpret the First Amendment and section 425.16 in a manner "favorable to the exercise of freedom of speech, not its curtailment."].) fn 7 The proviso is not surprising, since the "stated purpose of the [anti-SLAPP] statute ... includes protection of not only the constitutional right to 'petition for the redress of grievances,' but the broader constitutional right of freedom of speech." (Averill v. Superior Court (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 1170, 1176 [50 Cal.Rptr.2d 62].) Our construction of section 425.16 to protect not just statements or writings on public issues, but all statements or writings made before, or in connection with issues under consideration by, official bodies and proceedings, is consistent with that purpose, as well as with the statute's plain language.

Where, as here, legislative intent is expressed in unambiguous terms, we must treat the statutory language as conclusive; "no resort to extrinsic {Page 19 Cal.4th 1120}aids is necessary or proper." (People v. Otto (1992) 2 Cal.4th 1088, 1108 [9 Cal.Rptr.2d 596, 831 P.2d 1178], citing Griffin v. Oceanic Contractors, Inc. (1982) 458 U.S. 564, 570 [102 S.Ct. 3245, 3249-3250, 73 L.Ed.2d 973]; see also Delaney v. Superior Court (1990) 50 Cal.3d 785, 804 [268 Cal.Rptr. 753, 789 P.2d 934]; Board of Supervisors v. Lonergan (1980) 27 Cal.3d 855, 866 [167 Cal.Rptr. 820, 616 P.2d 802].) (1c) Accordingly, we need not refer to extrinsic indicators of legislative intent in concluding that section 425.16 applies to plaintiffs' causes of action based on ECHO's statements in connection with actual and potential civil litigation and a HUD investigation. Nevertheless, we observe that available legislative history buttresses the conclusion.

Legislative history materials respecting the origins of section 425.16 indicate the statute was intended broadly to protect, inter alia, direct petitioning of the government and petition-related statements and writings—that is, "any written or oral statement or writing made before a legislative, executive, or judicial proceeding" (section 425.16, subd. (e)(1)) or "in connection with an issue under consideration or review" (id., subd. (e)(2)) by such. The seminal academic research on which the original version of the statute was based used "an operational definition of SLAPP suits as implicating 'behavior protected by the Petition Clause.' " (Zhao v. Wong, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th at p. 1124, quoting Canan & Pring, Studying Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation: Mixing Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches (1988) 22 L. & Soc'y. Rev. 385, 387.)

The Legislature's 1997 amendment of the statute to mandate that it be broadly construed apparently was prompted by judicial decisions, including that of the Court of Appeal in this case, that had narrowly construed it to include an overall "public issue" limitation. (See Stats. 1997, ch. 271 section 1; Zhao v. Wong, supra, 48 Cal.App.4th at p. 1128 [disagreeing "that the statute was meant to have broad application"]; Linsco/Private Ledger, Inc. v. Investors Arbitration Services, Inc., supra, 50 Cal.App.4th at p. 1638 [opining that "the statute must be given a narrow interpretation"].) The timing of the amendment alone supports the inference: That the Legislature added its broad construction proviso within a year following issuance of Zhao, Linsco/Private Ledger, Inc., and the decision below plainly indicates these decisions were mistaken in their narrow view of the relevant legislative intent.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee's analysis of the amendatory legislation confirms the amendment was intended specifically to overrule Zhao v. Wong and the Court of Appeal's decision in this case. (See Assem. Com. on Judiciary, Analysis of Sen. Bill No. 1296 (1997-1998 Reg. Sess.) for July 2, 1997, hg., pp. 3-4 [stating "proponents have provided ample evidence that {Page 19 Cal.4th 1121}the state's courts of appeal are issuing conflicting opinions about the breadth of Section 425.16," noting that Averill v. Superior Court, supra, 42 Cal.App.4th 1170, Church of Scientology v. Wollersheim, supra, 42 Cal.App.4th 628, and Braun v. Chronicle, supra,