WPB RESIDENTS FOR INTEGRITY IN GOVERNMENT, INC., Cornerstone Solutions Florida, LLC, and Pradeep Asnani a/k/a Rick Asnani, Petitioners,
Sharon "Shanon" MATERIO, Respondent.
petitions for writ of certiorari to the Fifteenth Judicial
Circuit, Palm Beach County; Jeffrey Dana Gillen, Judge; L.T.
Case No. 50-2018-CA-012422.
Feuer of Leonard Feuer, P.A., West Palm Beach, for
petitioner, WPB Residents For Integrity In Government, Inc.
N. Shepherd, Seth J. Welner and Jeff Schacknow of Holland &
Knight LLP, West Palm Beach, for petitioners, Cornerstone
Solutions Florida, LLC, and Pradeep Asnani a/k/a Rick Asnani.
W. Janssen, III, John M. Siracusa and Mark G. Keegan of
Janssen, Siracusa & Keegan PLLC, West Palm Beach, for
A. Shepherd of GrayRobinson, P.A., Miami, for Amicus Curiae,
Americans for Prosperity and the Public Participation
Project, and First Amendment Foundation.
losing an election for city commission, a former candidate
filed a lawsuit
against political opponents for defamation and conspiracy to
the election, these opponents sent a direct mail piece to
targeted voters in West Palm Beach claiming that the
candidate knew how to "work the system" because she
claimed homestead exemptions in both Palm Beach and St. Lucie
Counties and received a federally-funded grant intended for
low income homeowners in St. Lucie County.
opponents, who are the petitioners in this court, moved for
summary judgment and to dismiss the suit on the merits,
arguing that their political speech was protected under
Floridas Anti-SLAPP statute, section 768.295, Florida
Statutes (2018). The circuit court denied their
motions, ruling that the mailer was not protected speech
under the statute.
Petitioners have sought review by a petition for writ of
dismiss the petition because petitioners have failed to
demonstrate one of the jurisdictional prerequisites for
certiorari jurisdiction— irreparable harm. Based on
binding Florida Supreme Court precedent, we certify conflict
with Gundel v. AV Homes, Inc., 264 So.3d 304 (Fla.
2d DCA 2019).
the current state of the law, the appropriate remedy would be
for the Supreme Court to amend Florida Rule of Appellate
Procedure 9.130 to allow for nonfinal appeals of orders
denying summary judgment or dismissal of a claim brought
under section 768.295. The express legislative intent of
subsection 768.295(4) is to secure a speedy decision at
"the earliest possible time" on a summary judgment
or motion to dismiss.
"Shanon" Materio was the incumbent candidate
running for West Palm Beach City Commission in March of 2018.
Her opponent hired Pradeep "Rick" Asnani, president
of Cornerstone Solutions Florida, LLC. Asnani worked with WPB
Residents for Integrity in Government, Inc., an
electioneering communications organization (the
"ECO"), to create a two-sided postcard (the
mailer was a "paid electioneering communication,"
defined by statute as a:
communication that is publicly distributed by a television
station, radio station, cable television system, satellite
system, newspaper, magazine, direct mail, or telephone and
1. Refers to or depicts a clearly identified candidate for
office without expressly advocating the election or defeat of
a candidate but that is susceptible of no reasonable
interpretation other than an appeal to vote for or against a
2. Is made within 30 days before a primary or special primary
election or 60 days before any other election for the office
sought by the candidate; and
3. Is targeted to the relevant electorate in the geographic
area the candidate would represent if elected.
106.011(8)(a), Fla. Stat. (2018).
mailer implied that Materio had illegally claimed a second
homestead exemption on a home in Port St. Lucie, and that she
received a federally-funded grant intended for low income
residents of Port St. Lucie. The mailer is reproduced below:
mailer was sent to voters within 30 days before the election,
and Materio thereafter lost her bid for reelection.
Materio sued Cornerstone, Asnani, and the ECO alleging four
causes of action:
Count I - Defamation per se against the ECO;
Count II - Defamation per se against Cornerstone;
Count III - Defamation against Asnani; and
Count IV - Conspiracy to Defame against all Defendants.
defendants moved to dismiss the complaint and for summary
judgment, arguing that the statements made in the mailer were
true, that there was no actual malice, and that Materios
causes of action were prohibited by Floridas Anti-SLAPP
statute, which protects the exercise of the right of
"free speech in connection with public issues." §
768.295(1), Fla. Stat.
a hearing, the circuit court denied the defendants motions.
The court ruled that the Anti-SLAPP statute was "in
derogation of the common law and an impediment to the
constitutional guarantee of access to the courts."
Because the statute was in derogation of the common law, the
court determined that it "must be strictly and narrowly
construed." The court then noted that the Anti-SLAPP
a list of communication types or mechanisms for which it does
provide protection," and that electioneering
communications were "not any one of the types of
communications set forth in the statute." Applying the
doctrine expressio unius est exclusio alterius, the
court concluded that the legislature intentionally omitted