Federal Anti-SLAPP Law Introduced

from the make-it-so dept

This effort has been underway for some time, but it’s great to see that a federal Anti-SLAPP law has finally been introduced. If you’re unfamiliar with this, a little over half of the states in the US have their own anti-SLAPP laws, which help those who have been sued solely to shut them up. SLAPP, of course, stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,” and it’s used to describe bogus lawsuits that are solely designed to tie up someone who can’t afford it in court — thus often making them stop whatever activity (or speech) annoyed whoever sued them, rather than go through the process of fighting the bogus lawsuit in court. Anti-SLAPP laws let those sued in this manner to quickly fight back and get the bogus lawsuits dismissed. The problem, of course, is that right now it’s a mishmash of state laws (or no laws at all), meaning that these sorts of bogus lawsuits are still brought all the time. A group of folks have been working for quite some time on putting together plans for a federal anti-SLAPP law, and Rep. Steve Cohen has finally introduced it — with the key feature being that those sued can recover fees, which makes it much more likely that they can get lawyers who will defend them (on a contingency basis) to get the bogus lawsuits tossed out. I have no idea the likelihood of this particular proposal getting anywhere, but as someone who has been threatened with bogus lawsuits way too often, it would be nice to know the protections I have expand beyond California (which already has a pretty good anti-SLAPP law).

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Comments on “Federal Anti-SLAPP Law Introduced”

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Chargone (profile) says:

Re: At the end of the session?

Don’t know about the USA, so my note here is of dubious relevance, but… here-abouts (New Zealand, for those who’ve not yet noticed that :D) it’s a recipe to all but guarantee the thing passing without the public hearing about it.

but that doesn’t really seem to fit here, does it?
who gains what from what? always an interesting question.

Jeff says:

Re: At the end of the session? No

No, the end of a “Congress” would be a problem, this bill is in order all of next year, getting it in before the end of the year shows the sponsor wanted to hit the ground running and not get lost in the budget shuffle. December is the worst month to get press anyway, if you’re going to pull a stunt, now is not the time.

Willton says:

Constitutionality problem?

States have a broad police power under which it can create law like anti-SLAPP provisions, but Congress can only enact laws that it has the power to enact. Article 1 of the Constitution (and in some cases, Section 5 of the 14th Amendment) expressly sets out what powers Congress may use in enacting legislation, the most powerful of which being the Commerce Power pursuant to the Commerce Clause. Any legislation that is not pursuant to such a power is unconstitutional.

So, I ask you, how is a federal anti-SLAPP law constitutional? Under what power can Congress enact such a law?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Constitutionality problem?

If it is un-constitutional it would have to be removed by the courts if it is approved (but as others mentioned before, the timing will mostly likely see this law tossed into the void).

Public opinion would mostly likely be for this as this would be hard to twist into something that seems bad. “Yea, if the lawsuit was bogus they should get their money back.” Sounds like a no brainier.

Courts would probably welcome it as it would at least decrease some bogus lawsuits.

You are probably right, it is unconstitutional. But the only people that are going to fight that is mega corps and lawyer bullies against the judges who are bored out of their minds with cases as it is and an American public that won’t get behind them.

Willton says:

Re: Re: Constitutionality problem?

You know nothing about the Constitution. Get your facts from someone other than extremist government-haters.

Really? I take it you think you know better? If you are so damn knowledgeable, perhaps YOU could provide us with an explanation as to how this federal anti-SLAPP bill would be a constitutional exercise of legislative power. And feel free to explain how it would not run afoul of United States v. Lopez and United States v. Morrison. I’ll be waiting.

Scott M. Stolz (user link) says:

You Forget Something - Unconstitutional

Wilton, you forget something. The federal government can enact laws and does have the authority to regular the federal court system.

Now, I would agree with you if it applied to state courts, but as long as it only applies to federal courts, then it is perfectly legal and constitutional for them to do so.

Now I have not read the proposed law, so I am not sure what it exactly says. The constitutionality of it would depend on who and where it applies to.

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