This Is Important: Federal Anti-SLAPP Legislation Introduced

from the make-it-happen dept

For many years now, we've talked about the importance of a federal anti-SLAPP law, that would protect the First Amendment. As we've explained, it is not uncommon for people to abuse our judicial system to file a lawsuit against someone for saying things that they don't like, knowing that no matter how frivolous, the threat (and cost) of the lawsuit is often enough to get them to shut up. That's why such "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation" (SLAPP) are so popular. As it stands, anti-SLAPP laws are a complete hodgepodge of state laws. Some states have no anti-SLAPP laws. Others have weak ones. And a few have strong ones (though even some of those are under attack).

While there have been some attempts in the past, it appears that some in Congress are trying, once again, to create a federal anti-SLAPP law. This one has been introduced by Reps. Blake Farenthold and Anna Eshoo (with co-sponsorship from Reps. Darrell Issa, Jared Polis and Trent Franks).
The SPEAK FREE Act of 2015, will protect citizens from frivolous lawsuits that target their First Amendment Rights. Based on the Texas Citizens Participation Act, this bill will prevent bad actors from using a lawsuit to silence public opinion simply because they don’t agree with it. These lawsuits, known as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), pose a threat not only to free speech, but to the modern information economy. Protecting our right to free speech drives economic opportunity by paving the way to new forums for expression, like YouTube, or by facilitating the rise and fall of products or services through competition and honest buyer feedback.

The SPEAK FREE Act will provide a federal backstop to state Anti-SLAPP laws by creating a process similar to that in Texas and California, where expensive court proceedings are delayed and claims can be dismissed if the defendant can show that a SLAPP suit cannot succeed on the merits.
The full text of the bill can be seen at that link (or below), and it does appear to be similar to the ones in Texas and California, making it much easier to dismiss bogus SLAPP suits, to halt discovery and to get awarded attorneys fees for such SLAPP suits. Also, unlike some state laws, it is not limited to just speech about the government, which is important. While there may be some specifics within the bill that are worth tweaking, overall, it seems clearly modeled on the very successful, and well-thought out bills already in place in Texas and California. It would be a huge boost to freedom of expression to have this become law.

Seeing as how some rather wealthy folks have been trying to kill off anti-SLAPP laws in states already, expect to see a lot of FUD come out about this attempt to put in place an anti-SLAPP law that protects free expression across the entire country.

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  • identicon
    KRA, 13 May 2015 @ 5:32pm

    Good news

    And I never come here expecting to get good news. Looks like it's time to write to my reps again. It made such a difference with the TPP fast track bill, you know...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 May 2015 @ 6:11pm

      Re: Good news

      Even though it is still 90% bad news we see, it seems to have dropped by 8% lately.
      Faith in humanity... well, slightly less pessimistic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 13 May 2015 @ 6:19pm

    Let the insanity commence

    I've got to say, I'm actually rather looking forward to seeing just how insane the claims to try and shut this down will be, given it's a law intended to keep people from silencing others via frivolous lawsuits.

    How exactly does one defend the idea of silencing someone via bogus lawsuits, without coming across as a complete, self-centered moron? Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Pragmatic, 15 May 2015 @ 6:15am

      Re: Let the insanity commence

      Whining about government intrusion and interference in 3...2...1...

      ...from the usual suspects. Of course, they'll try to frame it as something else entirely, but believe me they'll complain.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 13 May 2015 @ 6:35pm

    Long, long road

    FUD from rich people...versus our federal Congresspeople...

    Don't get too attached to the good news, there's a long way to go before this does anything useful (even if Congress somehow manages to pass it).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    rapnel, 13 May 2015 @ 8:36pm

    I like how we need a law to protect the law.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Richard C. Wiley, 14 May 2015 @ 7:38am

    Need for federal SLAPP legislation.

    My blog was the victim of a SLAPP action by British Petroleum wind lease holders, Voters For Wind and a local pro industrial wind political action group called Citizens for Fair Government. It was an attempt to shut me and my reader-contributors up about concerns we had about a massive industrial wind project and local government corruption.
    The matter was resolved and I continue to blog about the disadvantages of local wind development despite continued harassment and false claims. The wind developer, Bp has abandoned the project.
    Fighting a SLAPP is very expensive and time consuming. I welcome efforts to enact legislation which allows for request of an immediate dismissal.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TimothyAWiseman (profile), 14 May 2015 @ 10:57am

    This would be helpful

    While there are some truly valid defamation cases, it is all too often used to attempt to silence critics and intimidate other potential critics. Anti-SLAPP laws help prevent that kind of abuse, and a federal anti-SLAPP law would be particular useful given the D.C. Circuits recent ruling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Sylvia Wright, 29 Oct 2015 @ 6:10pm

    lawfare used to attack legacy property rights

    Crediting the legacy of a rural Virginia childhood and Quaker lifestyle perspective of providing for present without sacrificing future, nevertheless, regardless of effort to safeguard my legacy rights, my family and I have been under siege since 2011.
    A battle is occurring in Henrico County in central Virginia between legacy property rights of a private road and expansion of the Islamic Center of Richmond (ICR). This battle is not about freedom to worship protected under the First Amendment and federal laws granting exemption waivers from local land zoning laws. Instead it is about abuse of the courts through lawfare to lay claim to property and property rights through force majeure, harassment and intimidation.
    To acquire an awareness of the status of my effort to protect family legacy property rights, link and position on time line at approx. 30 to hear a radio interview - d-states
    Or read details by linking to
    As a result of my experience, I urge all to
    1. Selectively use rights to vote to ensure the election of people who value constitutional rights.
    2. Lobby for agency functions that monitor enforcement of local government plan of development agreements, proffers and/or compliance of VA Code requirements – there is presently such a function for those who violate ‘fair housing’ laws.
    3. Lobby for land use processes that require ‘clear title’ of properties prior to approval for land use development.
    4. Ensure there is a ‘next level’ of law enforcement available when local structures fail to prevent ‘breaches of peace’ – no person should receive written notice from governmental representatives that he or she can defend their own rights.
    5. And, perhaps more importantly lobby for not simply an antiSLAPP law for VA but at the Federal level, too. Presently, there is a Federal level proposal — HR 2304 by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) — which has at least two dozen cosponsors. For details, link to view an informative article,
    Bio of Wright, link to

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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