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Robins Kaplan LLP Secures Decisive Pro Bono Victory in Minnesota Supreme Court

Minneapolis, MN—May 25, 2017—The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled today that the Minnesota anti-SLAPP statute was unconstitutional as an impairment of a party’s right to a jury trial under Article I, Section 4 of the Minnesota Constitution, deciding in favor of plaintiffs Lawrence and Sinuon Leiendecker, who were represented pro bono by national trial firm Robins Kaplan LLP®. The decision will allow the Leiendecker’s malicious prosecution lawsuit to continue against the defendants—Asian Women United of Minnesota (AWUM) and others—notwithstanding the provisions of the statute that would have otherwise required dismissal.

Today’s decision was part of a long-running dispute between the parties, dating back more than a decade, arising out of claims raised by Sinuon Leiendecker of mismanagement of the non-profit organization AWUM, and her subsequent termination allegedly in response to her actions. AWUM unsuccessfully sued Sinuon and her husband, Lawrence Leiendecker, who provided pro bono legal services to AWUM. Those suits were terminated with fees awarded to both Sinuon and Lawrence.

The Leiendeckers ultimately sued AWUM and others, alleging that the earlier suits were brought without probable cause and with malice. The defendants sought to have the malicious prosecution suit dismissed under the anti-SLAPP statute, which provides for dismissal of claims based on conduct that “materially relates” to an act of “public participation,” such as bringing a lawsuit, unless the conduct is shown by clear and convincing evidence to constitute a tort. Under the statute, a judge, rather than a jury, is to make the factual determination of the merits of the case, a provision that the court agreed deprived the Leiendeckers of their right to a jury trial.

“We truly felt that this case presented an important issue of constitutional law,” said Eric Magnuson, partner at Robins Kaplan who represented the Leiendeckers and argued the case at the Minnesota Supreme Court. “The right to a jury trial is one of our most respected and revered traditions, and we are pleased to play a part in vindicating that right.”

Robins Kaplan acted as lead counsel to the Leiendeckers at the Minnesota Supreme Court. Robert A. Hill of Robert Hill Law, Thomas B. Gunther of Gunther Law Offices, LLC, and Mahesha Subbaraman of Subbaraman PLLC served as co-counsel.

The case, Leiendecker v. Asian Women United of Minnesota, was heard before the Minnesota Supreme Court by Associate Justice Anne K. McKeig.