Connecticut Lawmakers Drop Anti-SLAPP, Libel Tourism Bills On The Governor's Desk

from the MOAR-SPEECH dept

Some good news for free speech is emerging in Connecticut. In the first bit of good news, an anti-SLAPP law has been unanimously passed by legislators and is headed for the governor's desk.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved and sent to the governor’s desk Monday a bill to enable defendants who are exercising First Amendment rights to more easily seek dismissal of some lawsuits intended to silence them.

“It’s a bill to protect people against ‘libel bullies,’” said Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford.

[...]

The bill passed the Senate unanimously last week.

If passed, this would lower the number of states without anti-SLAPP laws to 21, which means there's still a lot of work to do if there's any hope of preventing forum-shopping by censorious litigants. The bill provides for the filing of anti-SLAPP motions by defendants who feel a libel suit has been filed simply to shut them up. It also prevents the court from advancing the case further -- most importantly, blocking discovery attempts by plaintiffs -- until the special motion has been ruled on.

Under this law, libel litigants would need to show a "preponderance of evidence" in support of their lawsuit's claims at the early stages of litigation, helping decrease the costs of defending against defamation claims. In addition, court fees and legal fees would be awarded to the defendant if the anti-SLAPP motion is granted. This deterrent will hopefully prevent bad faith litigators from filing lawsuits just to waste defendants' time and money.

Unfortunately, the law also requires the defendant to make the same evidentiary showing first, which kind of turns anti-SLAPP motions into a pre-trial trial where both parties are given evidentiary burdens during a preliminary set of motions. This somewhat subverts the purpose of the bill, which is to reduce defendants' costs prior to litigation. This is the part of the law the ACLU would like to see removed before it will offer its support.

(Weirdly, the ACLU also wants the language to the bill to exclude commercial speech, which it doesn't feel should be elevated to the level of other protected speech. The problem with this is that it would give bad faith litigants a way to dodge anti-SLAPP motions simply by pointing to advertising on defendants' websites or defendants' use of personal social media accounts to promote their businesses, etc.)

It's not a perfect anti-SLAPP bill, but it's far, far better than the state continuing without one.

The other good news is the passage of a bill targeting "libel tourism."

The House on Tuesday unanimously approved legislation that would protect Connecticut residents from libel suits file in other countries.

The bill, which also cleared the Senate unanimously, is now headed to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy for signature. If signed into law, it would prohibit enforcement of libel judgments in countries with defamation standards lower than those in Connecticut.

This bill is somewhat redundant, considering the US government already shields US residents from foreign libel lawsuits under the SPEECH Act. To overcome this, foreign libel litigants would have to file in a country with comparable free speech protections and deal with Section 230 protections, if they've chosen to target the easiest defendant to serve, rather than the individual involved in the alleged defamation.

But a little extra legal protection never hurts, especially if a libel tourist somehow manages to avoid US federal jurisdiction when suing a US resident. That being said, it's a pretty safe bill to pass and it's apparently turning one legislator into a Connecticut resident's personal hero.

[Senator Joe] Markley introduced the bill at the request of a Cheshire resident, and he expressed pleasure Wednesday that a constituent’s bill garnered approval.

Representatives that actually represent their constituents: an unexpected, but lovely, touch.


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 13 Jun 2017 @ 3:54pm

    Perfect is the enemy of good, and any good anti-SLAPP bill is better than none at all. Kudos to Connecticut lawmakers for passing theirs.

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

  2. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 13 Jun 2017 @ 6:31pm

    If only CT's northern neighbor were more on-the-ball about having passed strong anti-SLAPP laws in a timely manner.

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

  3. icon
    Roger Strong (profile), 14 Jun 2017 @ 12:33am

    This bill is somewhat redundant, considering the US government already shields US residents from foreign libel lawsuits under the SPEECH Act.

    Which has unexpected consequences. Given the invasive security measures on the border and the cancellation of group trips rather than risk someone being left behind for being Muslim, America's only remaining form of tourism may be libel tourism.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2017 @ 12:48am

    Re:

    Where is the 'sad but true' button?

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

  5. icon
    Ninja (profile), 14 Jun 2017 @ 3:55am

    "Representatives that actually represent their constituents: an unexpected, but lovely, touch."

    Very rare specimen. We should study it. How does it live? What does it do? Call Discovery Channel!

    /regular politician

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2017 @ 6:31am

    “It’s a bill to protect people against ‘libel bullies’”

    Trump isn't going to like that.

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

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Jun 2017 @ 6:33am

    Re:

    Perfect is the enemy of good,

    Mediocre is the enemy of good. Especially when it substitutes for good.

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

  8. identicon
    Thad, 14 Jun 2017 @ 10:02am

    Re: Re:

    Unfortunately, "better than nothing" and "a step in the right direction" are often the best we can expect.

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

  9. identicon
    Spica, 14 Jun 2017 @ 11:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    People need to know how to compromise. Take the Missouri Compromise, for a famous example. The fact that too many people just wouldn't accept it led to a whole civil war.

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

  10. identicon
    Thad, 14 Jun 2017 @ 4:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    So what's the name for "Godwin's Law, but with slavery"? There has to be a name for it.

    Yes, you're right, there exist cases where compromise and incremental reform are unacceptable, a fact which is very very obvious and was not in dispute. Great job, have a cookie.

    Do you have an argument for why this is a case where compromise and incremental reform are unacceptable, or are you satisfied with "because slavery"?

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

  11. identicon
    Spica, 14 Jun 2017 @ 6:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I was just agreeing with your principles. You seem to be abandoning them rather quickly now. Kind of like a cock roach running from the light.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Use markdown for basic formatting. HTML is no longer supported.
  Save me a cookie
Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Shop Now: Copying Is Not Theft
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.