Media Law Bulletin - How to Prevent the Sting of a SLAPP - November 2010


The Rise of Anti-SLAPP Legislation in America

With the rise of the Internet, there has also been an increase in meritless lawsuits brought for the purpose of harassing and intimidating those who urge a government result or speak out on an issue of public interest. Think: bully on the playground. These lawsuits are commonly known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs). In response to these "bullies," several states have adopted anti-SLAPP legislation, and the federal government is considering following suit. The Citizen Participation Act, H.R. 4364, has received support from more than 100 organizations and individuals...

California Set the Standard and Other States Have Followed

Long before the Internet became popular as a forum for public speech, California recognized the problem when well-funded companies were suing citizens who were holding the companies accountable. The solution California came up with in 1992 was the adoption of an anti-SLAPP law that made it easier for defendants to seek early dismissal of these suits at no cost to them. Since that time, 26 other states have passed anti-SLAPP laws, two states (Colorado and West Virginia) have adopted judicial procedures to protect against such suits, and several jurisdictions, including Michigan, Texas and Washington, D.C., are considering adopting similar statutes this legislative session. The trend for passage of anti-SLAPP legislation is ongoing. In the last decade, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington have all adopted anti-SLAPP statutes – again showing this is not a red or a blue state issue. It is a speech issue that transcends both parties and strikes at the heart of patriotism...

Texas Lawmakers Will Get to Decide Whether to Protect Free Speech

Texans, by nature, are an outspoken breed, and they, too, are finding themselves in need of additional protection against the moneyed interests of those with lawyers on retainer so they can continue to speak out about matters of public concern. When Janis Garraway filed a complaint against the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners about her doctor and then went to her local television station for help when nothing was being done, she found herself on the receiving end of a costly lawsuit, all because she was reporting wrongdoing. Garraway and the television station ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit, and the doctor was ultimately sanctioned by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners, but not until after a costly legal battle that should never have occurred...

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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