Case dismissed against City of Rocklin; Hoot Coffee owners plan to appeal

By: Brody Fernandez Of Gold Country Media
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A case was dismissed between the city of Rocklin and Hoot Coffee at a hearing Oct. 18 by Placer County Superior Court Judge Todd Irby, according to court documents.  

Hoot Coffee and Party Place are a connected business and building in Rocklin at 6831 Lonetree Blvd.

Owners Michael Beaman and Robert Lindsey took the city of Rocklin to court in order to reopen their coffee shop, according to Beaman.

The owners allege that the city of Rocklin “committed various intentional and negligent torts and contract breaches against (Hoot Coffee),” according to court documents. These actions culminated in the city forcing Hoot Coffee to close its business after a child was found to be stuck in the bounce house at Party Place, according to Beaman.

“This case came down to an ‘Anti-SLAPP’ rule,” said the owners’ lawyer, Quinn Chealier about the case’s dismissal.

SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and the city of Rocklin filed an Anti-SLAPP motion.

“They are basically a rule that prohibits people from filing a lawsuit that are designed to chill people’s right for free speech,” Chevalier said. “So if you file a complaint that appears to be designed to limit somebody’s First Amendment rights, the defendant (Rocklin in this case) will file an Anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss the lawsuit.”

“So that’s what happened here because a lot of the factual allegations and complaints refer to conversations between the city and my clients (Beaman and Lindsey) during this whole process of the permits being issued and so forth,” Chevalier said.

The attorney filed a SLAPP motion because, he said, many of the context regarding the allegations by his clients involved conversations, emails and phone calls (speech).

“Anti-SLAPP statutes are designed to prohibit lawsuits that aim to chill speech in any of its forms,” Chevalier said.

Chevalier expressed disappointment in the ruling.  

“Our lawsuit is not designed to chill speech. This lawsuit arose from a permitting problem or a use permit problem,” Chevalier said. “It didn’t arise from a speech problem. This was a nice tactical and strategic maneuver by the city.”

When the decision came down to it, Chevalier said, “it was extremely close” and the court was “wrong” in regard to this case being about free speech and not the issuance of permits.

Gold Country Media received a statement from the city of Rocklin on the ruling in favor of the city.

“The city of Rocklin is pleased the Placer County Superior Court decided in favor of the city in the Beaman and Lindsey litigation,” said Rocklin spokesman Michael Young. “(The court) stated that the plaintiff had not made a sufficient showing that he would prevail on any of his causes of action, striking both the original and amended complaints.”

Young said that Judge Irby was correct in his ruling.

“The city is confident the correct decision was made, but with the appeal process yet to play out, we will have no further comment at this time,” Young said.

Chevalier told Gold Country Media that Beaman and Lindsey plan to appeal. If the Hoot Coffee owners file a motion to appeal, the appeal would be heard in the 3rd district Court of Appeals in Sacramento.