Real Property Law

An Interview With Webinar Presenters Mary Howell And Barry Ross

November 2023

Mary Howell and Barry Ross

BY: RPLS E-News Staff

E-News: Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Mary Howell: I’ve been representing Home Owners Associations for over 40 years, I’ve been active at the state and national with various industry organizations, I’ve taught extensively to boards and legal symposiums on HOA law, and am the Co-Author of the State Bar book on Advising HOAs.

Barry Ross: My practice consists of property and business owners who have disputes with home owner associations or community associations. I’ve handled over 100 jury and non-jury trials, and served as a deputy city attorney for Hawthorne and Long Beach. I’m also the author of a new book called, “Are you the King or Queen of Your Castle—Not if You live in a Home Owners Association.”

E-News: Each of you will be presenting a series of programs sponsored by CLA-RPLS and the Orange County Bar Association on December 12th and 15th. On December 12, 2023, Barry will present on “Anti-SLAPP Suits in the Context of Home Owner Associations,” and on December 15, 2023, Mary will present on “Defamation and Counseling Clients in the Context of Home Owner Associations.” First and foremost, thank you for your time in organizing and presenting those programs! Please share a little bit about why you chose your topic.

Mary: Over time, these issues of defamation just kept coming up again and again. I thought it would be helpful to walk practitioners through these cases so they can properly counsel their clients because they’re very frequently not beneficial for anyone. I’d like to share some information with attorneys so they have a better understanding of what’s coming down the road.

Barry: I was involved with an important appellate opinion on this topic called Cabrera v. Alam (2011) 197 Cal.App.4th 1077. It was a fascinating case that addressed the interplay between homeowners associations and the anti-SLAPP statute. When the decisions first came out, the courts favored the SLAPP statutes. Recently, however, courts are reluctant to find that a SLAPP occurred. As a result, I’d like to discuss the latest changes to the intersection of those topics.

E-News: That sounds exceptionally helpful. Very briefly, can you tell us a little bit about the outline of your presentations.  

Mary: Sure. I’d like to start with a brief review of a defamation cases, and the defenses you can expect to encounter. There will be a limited discussion of the anti-SLAPP motion, and an overview of the existing literature on the subject. This will be much more of a primer on defamation, and where it’s worked and where it hasn’t as well as considerations for the trial of the case. There will be a discussion of how to have a honest conversation with prospective clients about HOA governance.

Barry: Yes. There will be a bit of a discussion of “how not to get SLAPP’d in a suit against an HOA,” assessing the SLAPP statute itself and cases interpreting it over the years, and provide a nice discussion of court cases in the field. A lot of attorneys don’t realize how they can get into SLAPP situations over HOAs.

E-News: I can definitely see how that would be valuable for practitioners in the field.  Thank you again for donating your time and sharing your knowledge with CLA-RPLS community to help raise the level of practice in our community.

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