Fighting For Better Anti-SLAPP Laws: I'm Joining The Board Of The Public Participation Project
from the because-free-speech-matters dept
Anyone who’s read Techdirt for any length of time knows that I’ve spent years fighting for better anti-SLAPP laws at both the state and federal level. You may remember my public talk about the importance of anti-SLAPP’s using the lawsuit against myself as an example, though my fighting for better anti-SLAPP laws dates back way before that event. Or, if you want a more humorous take on SLAPP lawsuits and the need for anti-SLAPP laws, you can check out John Oliver’s clever take on the issue:
In short, SLAPP lawsuits are “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” These are lawsuits — generally defamation lawsuits — that target someone’s speech, not because the lawsuits have any chance of succeeding, but just because the filer knows that the lawsuit itself is a huge hassle, in terms of time, money, and attention, for those on the receiving end. What a good anti-SLAPP law does is threefold:
- It shifts the burden quickly to the plaintiff to prove they have a viable case. This is important. Legitimate cases are not stopped by anti-SLAPP laws.
- It makes it easier for the court to then dismiss frivolous SLAPP suits quickly, hopefully reducing the hassle aspect of such lawsuits.
- It awards attorneys’ fees to the defendant, hopefully reducing the cost of facing such a lawsuits, and providing stronger incentives against potential filers of SLAPP suits.
Unfortunately, only a little more than half of all states have an anti-SLAPP law, and there is no federal anti-SLAPP law. Also, multiple circuits have decided that state anti-SLAPP laws should not be used in federal court (multiple circuits have gone the other way as well). Even among states that do have anti-SLAPP laws, they can vary widely from state to state in terms of what they cover, how they work, and how effective they are.
To sum it up: the state of anti-SLAPP laws is a mess, and it’s allowing powerful people to create real chilling effects and tie up critics and commentators with bogus, expensive, lawsuits.
For years, now, the non-profit Public Participation Project has been fighting to get better state anti-SLAPP laws passed and to get a federal anti-SLAPP law in place. They also keep track of the details of what states have anti-SLAPP laws, what they cover, and how various litigation around anti-SLAPP laws has turned out.
I’ve admired and relied on its work for years, and that’s why I was delighted this week to agree to join the board of the Public Participation Project, and help the organization fight for better anti-SLAPP laws to protect everyone’s right to free speech, and against abusive, censorious, litigation that makes a mockery of the 1st Amendment and freedom of expression.