Washington’s new anti-SLAPP law, a version of the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act, replaces its 2010 predecessor that was invalidated by the Supreme Court in 2015. The 2010 law was considered too aggressive and infringed on the state’s constitutional right to a jury trial. The new legislation, like its predecessor, aims to protect individuals against SLAPP suits that threaten their First Amendment rights.
Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs)
In order to understand what are anti-SLAPP laws, we must first answer what does ‘SLAPP’ stand for? SLAPP stands for Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs). These are baseless lawsuits that seek to intimidate individuals against exercising their rights to freedom of expression. Costly litigation or threats of legal action are used to suppress public participation or silence speech on matters of public interest. Corporations and businesses may use a SLAPP suit to muzzle individuals or organizations who speak out, assemble, or petition the government on matters of public concern. The State of Washington, in an unprecedented move, was the first to enact anti-SLAPP legislation with the aim of deterring these problematic lawsuits.
For more information on states with anti-SLAPP laws, click here.
Scope of the New Anti-SLAPP Law
The new anti-SLAPP statute covers any anti-SLAPP lawsuit that is based on an individual’s:
- “Communication in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding”
- Communication on an issue under consideration or review in a legislative, executive, judicial, administrative, or other governmental proceeding”
- Exercise of the right of freedom of speech or of the press, the right to assemble or petition, or the right of association, guaranteed by the United States Constitution or Washington State Constitution, on a matter of public concern”
The legislation exempts claims made against government employees or agents acting in an official capacity, insurance claims, claims related to common law fraud, and claims made under federal law, among others.
How the Anti-SLAPP Law Works
Individuals have a defense against defamation claims in the new statute that also provides a means to quickly and effectively dispose of groundless SLAPP lawsuits. Individuals targeted by a SLAPP lawsuit may counter claims by making a special motion for expedited relief. Motions must be filed within 60 days of that individual being served with a complaint. A defendant in a case must provide to a plaintiff written notice of their intent to file a motion at least 14 days before filing. The plaintiff, during that time, may withdraw or amend the complaint according to the requisite court rules.
The anti-SLAPP statute places a stay on all discovery, other hearings, and motions until a motion has been decided. A court may, however, allow limited discovery if a party can provide legitimate reasons for the court to do so. Barring any extenuating circumstances, a court shall hear a motion within 60 days of the filing of the motion and subsequently rule within 60 days of hearing the motion. Court decisions regarding a case are based on the pleadings, the motion, any reply or response to the motion, and any evidence that could be considered in ruling on a motion for summary judgment”.
Success in a Motion for Expedited Relief
Winning a motion for expedited relief means that a court has dismissed a claim made against you, in whole or in part. Successful defendants are entitled to recover their attorney’s fees, legal fees related to the case, court costs, and a $10,000 damage award. As a byproduct of the case, a successful defendant may, in turn, sue a plaintiff for malicious prosecution.
Right to an Appeal
Having lost a case, the anti-SLAPP law allows a moving party to appeal an order denying a motion. Such appeals must be filed within 21 days of the entry of the order.
Secure Expert Representation in Your Defamation Case
Defamation cases are difficult to navigate and can leave your reputation tarnished. If you are involved in a defamation case, contact us at RM Warner Law. Allow our knowledgeable attorneys who are experienced in defamation and other legal matters to provide expert and early representation for you. Speak with one of our internet lawyers online today or call us toll-free at 1-866-570-8585 to discuss your case.