of Appeals Office of Appellate Courts
J. Magnuson, Robins Kaplan LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota;
Mahesha P. Subbaraman, Subbaraman PLLC, Minneapolis,
Minnesota; Robert A. Hill, Robert Hill Law, Ltd., Maplewood,
Minnesota; and Thomas B. Gunther, Gunther Law Offices, LLC,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for respondents.
Nord Hunt, Phillip A. Cole, Bryan R. Feldhaus, Lommen Abdo,
P.A., Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellants Asian Women
United of Minnesota, et al.
P. Kane, Armeen F. Mistry, Cozen O'Connor, Minneapolis,
Minnesota, for appellants Greenstein, Mabley & Wall, LLC,
respondents did not waive their argument that Minn. Stat.
§ 554.02 (2016) violates Article I, Section 4 of the
Minnesota Statutes § 554.02, as applied to claims at law
alleging torts, violates the respondents' jury-trial
right under Article I, Section 4 of the Minnesota
and Lawrence Leiendecker sued the nonprofit organization
Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM), alleging that two of
AWUM's previous lawsuits against them constituted
malicious prosecution. AWUM sought immunity under
Minnesota's anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public
Participation) law, which permits parties to move for
dismissal of a lawsuit on the ground that a claim against
them relates to an act involving public participation. Minn.
Stat. §§ 554.01-.06 (2016). After we clarified the
law's procedure, the district court ruled that the
section of the law that governs motions "to dispose of a
judicial claim, " Minn. Stat. § 554.02, subdivision
1, violated the Leiendeckers' right to a jury trial by
requiring the trial judge to find facts. Id., subd.
2(3) (requiring "the court" to make findings). AWUM
appealed to the court of appeals, then petitioned this court
for accelerated review, which we granted. For the reasons
that follow, we affirm.
previous case involving these parties chronicled the history
of this litigation.
The parties in this case have a long-running feud that has
resulted in multiple lawsuits. AWUM is a nonprofit
organization that operates a shelter for battered women and
provides other services for women and children. Sinuon
Leiendecker was AWUM's executive director from 1999 to
2004. Lawrence Leiendecker is an attorney who provided pro
bono legal services to AWUM.
The relationship between AWUM and the Leiendeckers began to
deteriorate in 2003. In late 2003, the Leiendeckers attempted
to oust AWUM's board of directors by forming a new board,
terminating the old board, and filing a declaratory-judgment
action to have the new board declared legitimate. In
response, AWUM's old board alleged that it had previously
fired Sinuon from her position as AWUM's executive
director and that she had received wages and benefits to
which she was not entitled.
In that lawsuit-the first between the parties-the district
court rejected the Leiendeckers' efforts to install the
new board of directors. The district court also rejected the
old board's allegation that it had fired Sinuon, but
permitted the old board to proceed on its claims that Sinuon
had received wages and benefits to which she was not
entitled. The old board then fired Sinuon and sought,
unsuccessfully, to add a legal-malpractice claim against
Lawrence to the action. After AWUM declined to tender advance
indemnification to Sinuon, the district court dismissed the
case and awarded approximately $25, 000 to Sinuon as
reimbursement of her costs and attorney fees.
In the parties' second lawsuit, Sinuon sued AWUM in
August 2005 for, among other things, wrongful termination.
The district court dismissed the action, but the court of
appeals reversed. Leiendecker v. Asian Women United of
Minn., 731 N.W.2d 836, 838 (Minn.App. 2007). The parties
settled the second lawsuit in 2008.
In the parties' third lawsuit, AWUM sued Lawrence in
February 2007 for legal malpractice and related claims.
Lawrence counterclaimed for indemnification. The district
court eventually dismissed AWUM's complaint at AWUM's
request, granted summary judgment to Lawrence on his
counterclaim for indemnification, and entered judgment for
over $41, 000 in favor of Lawrence.
In the parties' fourth lawsuit, AWUM sued Sinuon in
February 2008 for conversion and related claims, alleging
that Sinuon had received wages and other payments to which
she was not entitled while she was AWUM's executive
director. Sinuon again moved for advance indemnification. The
district court initially denied Sinuon's motion, but the
court of appeals reversed and remanded. Asian Women
United of Minn. v. Leiendecker, 789 N.W.2d 688, 689
(Minn.App. 2010). On remand, the district court concluded
that Sinuon was entitled to indemnification, and then
dismissed the lawsuit when AWUM declined to tender advance
indemnification to Sinuon. The district court also entered
judgment in favor of Sinuon to reimburse her for the costs
and attorney fees that she had incurred prior to the
In this lawsuit, now the fifth between the parties, the
Leiendeckers seek to recover under a host of legal theories
for the injuries allegedly inflicted by AWUM and the other
defendants through the four previous lawsuits. Their
complaint spans 116 pages, includes a total of 11 separately
numbered claims, and names 18 defendants (plus some John Does
and John Doe entities), including: AWUM; a current and a
former executive director of AWUM; certain current and former
AWUM board members; and individuals and companies that have
provided professional services or expert testimony for AWUM.
. . .
In the district court, AWUM moved for dismissal on a number
of grounds, but the only ground relevant to this appeal
arises out of Minnesota's anti-SLAPP statutes, Minn.
Stat. §§ 554.01-.05 (2012). The anti-SLAPP statutes
are directed at "SLAPP suits"-"Strategic
Lawsuits Against Public Participation"-which are
lawsuits that target the exercise of "[l]awful conduct
or speech that is genuinely aimed in whole or in part at
procuring favorable government action." Minn. Stat.
§ 554.03; see also Middle-Snake-Tamarac Rivers
Watershed Dist. v. Stengrim, 784 N.W.2d 834, 839 (Minn.
2010). . . .
The district court dismissed most of the Leiendeckers'
claims, but denied AWUM's anti-SLAPP motion with respect
to one: a claim for malicious prosecution.
Leiendecker v. Asian Women United of Minn., 848
N.W.2d 224, 226-28 (Minn. 2014) (foonotes omitted).
moving to dismiss a claim based on the anti-SLAPP law must
"make a threshold showing that the underlying 'claim
materially relates to an act of the moving party that
involves public participation.' " Stengrim,
784 N.W.2d at 841 (quoting Minn. Stat. § 554.02, subd.
1). After the moving party makes this threshold showing, the
burden shifts to the responding party. Clauses 2 and 3 of
Minnesota Statutes § 554.02, subdivision 2, explain the
responding party's burden:
(2) the responding party has the burden of proof, of going
forward with the evidence, and of persuasion on the motion;
(3) the court shall grant the motion and dismiss the judicial
claim unless the court finds that the responding party has
produced clear and convincing evidence that the acts of the
moving party are not ...