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Shandola v. Henry

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 2

May 9, 2017

LAWRENCE SHANDOLA, Appellant,
v.
PAULA HENRY and JOHN DOE HENRY, and the marital community thereof; LEW COX, individually and in his Official Capacity or Executive Director of VIOLENT CRIMES VICTIM SERVICES; ANNE NELSON and JOHN DOE NELSON, and the marital community thereof; LAUREEN NICOLAY and JOHN DOE NICOLAY, and the marital community thereof, Respondents.

          MAXA, A.C.J.

         This case involves a party's ability to vacate final monetary judgments under CR 60(b)(11) based on a subsequent Washington Supreme Court decision holding that the statute providing the basis for the judgments was unconstitutional.

         Lawrence Shandola filed a lawsuit against Paula Henry, Anna Nelson, Laureen Nicolay, and Lew Cox (collectively "Henry defendants"). The trial court dismissed Shandola's lawsuit and entered money judgments against Shandola in favor of each defendant under the Washington Act Limiting Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (anti-SLAPP statute), RCW 4.24.525. Shandola appealed and this court affirmed the judgment. Eight months after the mandate was issued, the Supreme Court ruled in Davis v. Cox that the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional and invalid because it violated the constitutional right to a jury trial. 183 Wn.2d 269, 288-96, 351 P.3d 862 (2015). Shandola filed a CR 60(b)(11) motion to vacate the judgments against him, arguing that there was no valid basis for the judgments because the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional.

         Shandola appeals the trial court's denial of his CR 60(b)(11) motion. We hold that (1) CR 60(b)(11) provides a mechanism for vacating a final judgment based on a subsequent court decision invalidating the statutory basis of the judgment, (2) Davis's invalidation of the anti-SLAPP statute can be applied retroactively, (3) res judicata does not prevent the application of CR 60(b)(11), and (4) there are extraordinary circumstances here justifying relief under CR 60(b)(11). Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's denial of Shandola's CR 60(b)(11) motion and remand for the trial court to strike the money judgments entered against him.

         FACTS

         Shandola Lawsuit

         Shandola was convicted of murder and sentenced to prison. He requested a transfer to Canada for incarceration because he is a Canadian citizen. The Henry defendants wrote letters to the Department of Corrections opposing Shandola's transfer. After Shandola's transfer request was denied, he sued the Henry defendants, alleging false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress based on those letters. Shandola represented himself.

         Anti-SLAPP Statute and Motion to Dismiss

         Before Davis, the anti-SLAPP statute provided a special procedure for handling lawsuits aimed at chilling the exercise of free speech and the right to petition for redress. The statute permitted a defendant to file a special motion to strike any claim "based on an action involving public participation and petition." RCW 4.24.525(4)(a). In order to defeat the special motion to strike, the plaintiff was required to show by "clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim." RCW 4.24.525(4)(b). If a defendant prevailed on the motion to strike, the trial court was required to award the defendant $10, 000 plus litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees. RCW 4.24.525(6)(a)(i)-(ii).

         On March 23, 2013, the Henry defendants filed a motion to dismiss Shandola's suit under CR 12(b)(6), arguing that they were immune from suit under the anti-SLAPP statute. Shandola opposed the motion, arguing that the Henry defendants had not followed the procedure mandated in the statute. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. The trial court also entered judgments in favor of each defendant against Shandola for $10, 000 plus litigation costs and reasonable attorney fees under the anti-SLAPP statute.

         Shandola Appeal and Final Judgment

         On April 29, 2013, Shandola appealed the trial court's dismissal to this court. He apparently represented himself in the appeal. He argued that the trial court erred because the Henry defendants filed a motion to dismiss under CR 12(b)(6) instead of following the special motion procedures in the anti-SLAPP statute. Shandola did not argue that the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional.

         A commissioner of this court considered Shandola's appeal as a motion on the merits and affirmed the trial court's dismissal. The commissioner's ruling was entered on March 20, 2014. We issued a mandate terminating review on September 15.

          Davis Decision

         On May 28, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Davis that the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional. 183 Wn.2d at 288-296. The court held that because the statute's special motion procedure required the trial court to adjudicate factual questions without a trial, the statute violated the right to trial by jury guaranteed in article 1, section 21 of the Washington Constitution. Id. at 293-94. The court also held that the subsection describing the special motion procedure could not be severed from the rest of the statute, rendering the entire anti-SLAPP statute invalid. Id. at 294-95.

         Motion to Vacate

         On July 30, Shandola filed a motion to vacate the judgment against him under CR 60(b)(11). He argued that the trial court's award of $10, 000, litigation costs, and attorney fees to each of the Henry defendants could no longer stand in light of the Supreme Court's ruling that the anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional.

         The trial court noted that the constitutionality of the anti-SLAPP statute was not an issue in the initial dismissal or the appeal. The court did not consider whether extraordinary circumstances existed that would justify relief under CR 60(b)(11). Instead, the court summarily concluded that the principle of finality controlled and it denied Shandola's motion.

         Shandola appeals.

         ANALYSIS

         This case presents two primary issues. First, does CR 60(b)(11) provide a mechanism for vacating a final judgment based on a subsequent Supreme Court decision invalidating the statutory basis of the judgment? We hold that relief potentially is available under CR 60(b)(11) based on a postjudgment court decision. Second, did Shandola show extraordinary circumstances that entitled him to CR 60(b)(11) relief under the facts of this case? We hold that this case does involve extraordinary circumstances and therefore that the trial court abused its discretion in denying Shandola's CR 60(b)(11) motion.

         A. Legal Principles

         CR 60(b) provides that the trial court may relieve a party from a final judgment, order, or proceeding for one of 11 stated reasons. Finality of judgments is a central value in the legal system, but circumstances can arise where finality must give way to the greater value that justice be done. Union Bank, NA v. Vanderhoek Assocs., LLC, 191 Wn.App. 836, 846, 365 P.3d 223 (2015). CR 60(b) provides a balance between finality and fairness by listing limited circumstances under which a judgment may be vacated. Id. (quoting Suburban Janitorial Servs. v. Clarke Am., 72 Wn.App. 302, 313, 863 P.2d 1377 (1993)).

         CR 60(b)(11) states that the court may grant relief from a final judgment for "[a]ny other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment." This is a catch-all provision intended to serve the ends of justice in extreme, unexpected situations and when no other subsection of CR 60(b) applies. In re Det. of Ward, 125 Wn.App. 374, 379, 104 P.3d 751 (2005). The provision applies to extraordinary circumstances involving irregularities extraneous to the proceeding. Union Bank, 191 Wn.App. at 845.

          A party must file a motion under CR 60(b)(1), (2) and (3) within one year of the judgment, but motions under the other subsections must only be filed within a "reasonable time." CR 60(b).[1]

         The decision to grant or deny a motion to vacate a judgment under CR 60(b) is within the trial court's discretion. Jones v. City of Seattle,179 Wn.2d 322, 360, 314 P.3d 380 (2013). Therefore, we review CR 60(b) orders for abuse of discretion. Union Bank, 191 Wn.App. at 842. A trial court abuses its discretion ...


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