I just viewed the live Arizona appellate court oral arguments in Tarter v. Bendt (CA-CV 19-0703 (Ariz.App. Div. 1 (2019)) and found it very informative. I have attended AZ SC oral hearings before but not an appellate hearing.
Bendt’s (defendant homeowner) attorney did an excellent job given the fact that she wasn’t the trial court attorney. I was very pleased to hear her arguments on limited-purpose public person that I missed over these years. Her rebuttal on free public speech was excellent! As you know I’ve posted a few cases on this issue that, in general, addresses the topic that HOAs are public forums subject to free political speech protections – you can criticize your HOA within limits.
A limited-purpose public figure is either:
“One who voluntarily becomes a key figure in a particular controversy, or one who has gained prominence in a particular, limited field, but whose celebrity has not reached an all-encompassing level.”
Two examples of holding HOA directors and officers subject to free speech doctrine can be found in Dublirer v. 2000 Linwood Avenue Owners Assn (NJ Supreme Court, 2014) and in Cabrera v. Alam (Cal. App. 4th (2011).
This case, although involving an HOA president’s conduct, Tarter, who is also a lawyer, is really an issue of defamation by the president against Bendt. The argument by Bendt’s attorney is that the HOA president is a limited-purpose public figure as described above and there was no valid defamation according to law — no malice. Malice being defined as: knowing that it is false; or acting with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity.
It is very informative that anyone thinking of suing his HOA should watch the oral arguments and see how harsh and strict the court demands supportable and defensible evidence. And how your attorney must be able to respond to questions by the judges and arguments by the HOA.
A MUST VIEW AT TARTER. (45 minutes; the last 5 minutes present the public forum argument by Bendt’s attorney).