About Time: NY Governor Cuomo Signs Anti-SLAPP Law
from the free-speech-comes-to-NY dept
Back in July, we noted that after years of living with a pathetically weak anti-SLAPP bill, the NY legislature had finally approved a more significant anti-SLAPP bill. It’s incredible that it has taken this long, given that much of the media industry is based in New York, and for so many years has been open to a barrage of ridiculous SLAPP suits, since the old law only covered speech made in the process of petitioning the government. Also, unlike most anti-SLAPP bills, New York’s did not have automatic fee shifting, which would make the vexatious litigant have to pay for the legal costs of the defendant.
For unclear reasons, the bill sat on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s desk unsigned for months. However, that finally ended yesterday as he has now signed the bill into law:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation that protects citizens’ rights to free speech and petition by deterring abusive “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” known as SLAPPs. SLAPP lawsuits are frivolous litigation brought by affluent plaintiffs who have the ability to spend large sums of money by using expensive and time-consuming litigation to obstruct those exercising their right to free speech. The legislation amends the Civil Rights Law to require costs and attorney’s fees to be recovered regarding these frivolous lawsuits, which will deter plaintiffs from bringing such lawsuits in the first place.
“For too long, powerful and wealthy interests have used frivolous lawsuits to harass and intimidate critics by burdening them with exorbitant legal fees and time consuming legal processes. That ends now,” Governor Cuomo said. “I am proud to sign this legislation, which protects New Yorkers’ fundamental right to free speech without fear of harassment or bullying by those who happen to have more money than they do.”
It’s good to see yet another state improve their anti-SLAPP laws. There are still many states with no anti-SLAPP laws or weak ones — and there still is no federal anti-SLAPP law at all. It’s about time that the new Congress and a new President support such a law next year. Over the last four years, we’ve seen a massive flurry of SLAPP suits, designed to intimidate and suppress speech, even by thin-skinned members of Congress (one assumes Devin Nunes is a no vote on any federal anti-SLAPP law). Such a bill should receive overwhelming support in Congress and would protect the free expression rights of every American.