What is Anti-SLAPP?
Anti-SLAPP laws were created to stop or dismiss SLAPP lawsuits and allow the defendant the possibility of getting their legal fees reimbursed. Anti-SLAPP laws even offer possible punitive damages for the party that filed the lawsuit. Oftentimes, people use Anti-SLAPP statutes to get frivolous defamation lawsuits dismissed.
What are SLAPP lawsuits?
SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation”. The term was first introduced by two law professors in the 1980’s who noticed an increase in lawsuits that were used to intimidate or censor critics from speaking out against opponents publicly (like a gag order of sorts) by making them pay attorney’s fees to defend themselves. SLAPP lawsuits were increasingly discouraging people from exercising their First Amendment rights, and from fully enjoying the freedom of the press that the United States offers. Thus, Anti-SLAPP laws were proposed to combat this practice, according to Media Law Resource Center.
Some Anti-SLAPP Lawsuit Examples Are
- Blog Posts speaking out against a person or company
- Social Media Posts speaking out a person or company
- Testifying before the legislature
- Reporting Official Misconduct
- Circulating a Petition
Who files SLAPP Lawsuits?
Typically, large corporations, brands, and government officials who receive public backlash for their actions file SLAPP lawsuits – especially if they have the budget for attorney’s fees. Most often SLAPP lawsuits are used as a tool to counter sue for defamation of character, in an effort to silence their critics.
Can I File an Anti-SLAPP Motionfor a Defamation Lawsuit?
This depends on the state you live in. Many big name states have composed anti-SLAPP statutes, like the New York anti-SLAPP statutes and the California anti-SLAPP statutes, but not every state has an Anti-SLAPP statute. It also depends on the circumstances of your case. It’s best to speak to an experienced defamation attorney to discuss your options.
As of June 2019, the following states have Anti-SLAPP statutes:
Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont.
In Washington and Minnesota, the Anti-SLAPP statutes were declared unconstitutional and struck down- but as of 2021 Washington revised and enacted anti-SLAPP statutes.
California Anti-SLAPP Statute
Each state’s law varies in which actions they apply to. California’s statute has the broadest scope of protection and many other states have closely followed the California model. This includes Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Nevada, Oregon, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.
Georgia’s statute was introduced back in 1996, but it was fairly narrow in scope, so ten years later, it was strengthened. In 2016, Georgia legislature passed HB 513, and it was introduced into law on April 26th, 2016. One of the main motivations for the update was the entertainment industry. Georgia increasingly became a popular destination for tv show and film productions, and the government sought to modify their law (making it similar to California’s) to make Georgia more appealing to the industry.
Here’s how the statute changed:
- Broadened the scope of the statute to include “Any written or oral statement or writing or petition made in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest or concern” and “Any … conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition or free speech in connection with a public issue or an issue of public concern.”
- Mandatory award of attorney’s fees for prevailing parties
- Denial of anti-SLAPP motion is immediately appealable
- Eliminates the verification procedure
In 2020, Nevada Supreme Court clarified what speech is subject to Anti-SLAPP protections. According to NRS 41.600(3)(a), Nevada’s statute protects the right to free speech regarding a matter of public concern. A good-faith communication in furtherance of the right to free speech regarding a matter of public concern includes any communication that is (1) “made in direct connection with an issue of public interest,” (2) “in a place open to the public or in a public forum,” and (3) “which is truthful or is made without knowledge of its falsehood.” NRS 41.637(4).
Statements must be communicated “in a place open to the public or in a public forum.” NRS 41.637(4) in order to receive Anti-SLAPP protections. Therefore, statements made in a private setting like a phone call or direct text message, would not count as a public forum.
New York Updated Anti-SLAPP Statute
In November of 2020, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law an update to New York’s anti-SLAPP law. This update expanded the protections afforded to defendants in lawsuits dealing with the exercise of free speech rights. Now, the risk to potential plaintiffs filing defamation and other First Amendment-based claims in New York has significantly increased, according toMedia Law Resource Center.
Texas Anti-SLAPP Law
The Texas Citizens’ Participation Act allows citizens to counter SLAPP lawsuits based on your statements in the exercise of your right of free speech, according toH.B. No. 273.Recently, a defamation lawsuit against Texas News stations and reporters wasthrown out using the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute.
Is There a Federal Anti-SLAPP Law?
Currently, there is no federal statute, but in June of 2020, Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee re-introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives the Citizens Participation Act of 2020 (H.R. 7771), which essentially brings the Anti-SLAPP motion that has been implemented in other states to the federal courts. However, this has yet to be passed and many believe that it still needs updating and amending before it will be passed, according to Forbes.
As of December of 2021, no federal statute has been passed.
We Can Help You Use Anti-SLAPP StatutesToGet A Defamation Lawsuit Thrown Out
Think you have a frivolous defamation lawsuit on your hands? Get in contact with our experienced defamation attorneys today. We know how to utilize the Anti-SLAPP laws in your state to counter sue defamation of character, and we will help guide you through the process.