The writing is on the wall for HOA reforms

Although the Arizona Supreme Court has not yet decided to hear Tarter v. Bend (CV 21-0049), my 44 page Pro Se amicus curiae brief is a matter of public record, regardless.  The case about a defamation suit by the HOA president, also an attorney and a limited-purpose public figure, raised constitutional issues of public speech with respect to questions of HOA governance. 

Selected excerpts follow.

As with the issue in Dombey (Dombey v. Phoenix Newspapers, Inc) . . . failing to present the question of Tarter’s status as a possible public figure denied the jury from considering the issues of protected free speech on public issues.

Kosor (NV) was sued on the basis of his criticism  and distribution of a pamphlet and letter at a board meeting seeking a seat on the board of directors.

“Because we conclude that each of Kosor’s statements was “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest in a place open to the public or in a public forum,” we reverse the district court’s decision to the contrary and remand for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The impetus behind this view can be laid to the heavy lobbying of state legislators, judges, the public and the media by the Community Associations Institute (CAI). From its 2016 white paper,

“Most legislators do not thoroughly understand common-interest communities or who their patchwork legislation is actually protecting. . . . Legislative responses to individual constituents contribute to community associations being perceived as over-restrictive micro-governments focused on covenant enforcement.”

In response to my Arizona Supreme Court pro se amicus brief in Gelb v. DFBLS (CV-10-0371-PR) CAI attorney Jason Smith wrote,

“It is clear from the that the amicus curiae [referring to me] simply wants to impose constitutional protections on members in homeowners associations. The law has never supported that proposition.”

[I called to the Court’s attention a question of a SLAPP lawsuit against Brendt.]  The issue of an HOA SLAPP lawsuit against a member is in the interest of general public and of statewide importance, and also of national concern, the impact on community associations is certainly substantial. This Court should, sua sponte, consider Tarter’s legal action as a HOA politically motivated strategic lawsuit  against member participation.

I urge the Court to apply the long overdue correction  of  Plessy v. Ferguson by Brown v. Bd of Education to the long overdue and needed corrections to the unconstitutional HOA legal scheme.  As with Brown, America’s culture and environment has changed dramatically from 1964’s Homes Association Handbook and the formation in 1973 of Community Associations Institute (CAI) to deal with rising HOA problems and constitutional concerns after only 9 years. 

Court holds HOA elections are a matter of public interest

A California appellate court held that HOA elections are a matter of public interest and annual meetings are a public forum. Candidates are limited public figures with respect to the elections. Therefore, the anti-SLAPP law applied with respect to statements made by the candidates and their speech is protected.  A defamation lawsuit based on statements made by the candidates must survive a motion that the lawsuit was made to stifle public participation.

 

In Cabrera v. Alam the court held,

 

We reverse and remand with directions to grant the anti-SLAPP motion. Defendant carried his burden of showing the defamation claim was based on protected activity under section 425.16, subdivision (e)(3). We hold defendant’s statements were protected activity because they were made in a public forum at a homeowners association’s annual meeting and concerned an issue of public interest, namely, the qualifications of a candidate for office in the association. Plaintiff failed to carry her burden of showing a probability of prevailing on the merits of the defamation claim. Having thrust herself into the controversy surrounding the election of the association’s board of directors, she became a limited purpose public figure who was required to show defendant made the allegedly defamatory statements with malice. Plaintiff failed to produce any evidence showing defendant made the statements knowing them to be false or recklessly disregarding their falsity.

 

Another step toward the recognition of the reality that HOAs are indeed de facto governments and need to be recognized as state actors, and brought under the protections and prohibitions of the US Constitution.