Texas Senator Who's Experienced Some Press Criticism Introduces Bill To Gut State's Anti-SLAPP Law

from the fixer-here-with-the-fixes dept

Everything's bigger in Texas. Even the free speech protections. Texas has one of the strongest anti-SLAPP laws in the nation. These protections against bogus, speech-chilling lawsuits are so big they even covered a US President who complained libel laws in America were too restrictive, resulting in a swift dismissal of a defamation lawsuit brought against him over a fairly innocuous, if invective-loaded, tweet.

Some Texas legislators like the bigness of their home state, but not so much the anti-SLAPP law that deters bogus lawsuits filed to silence critics. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brings news that a bill that would gut a substantial amount of Texas' anti-SLAPP protections has been introduced into the state Senate.

House Bill 2730 and SB 2162 would allow the entity accused of filing a meritless lawsuit to drop their case just days before a hearing. This effectively allows an entity to sue a media company for defamation, receive a hearing date, and then drop the lawsuit days before a hearing to avoid a bad ruling and the cost of the defendant’s legal fees.

The bills would also remove clearly articulated categories of protected speech relating to matters of public concern from the Texas anti-SLAPP law. The legislation drops the definitions of those categories of public speech and deletes anti-SLAPP protections for communications between parties on matters of public concern.

In addition, the bill would weaken protections for anonymous parties by exempting online commenters from the law's anti-SLAPP protections, and would give defendants only three days to file an anti-SLAPP motion when hit with a defamation lawsuit.

Why would legislation like this be needed? There's no good answer. And by that, I mean anyone agitating for an increase in baseless lawsuits is up to no good. I'm sure there's a certain number of people with power or connections to power who are irritated they simply can't threaten critics into silence with a strong anti-SLAPP law in place. Getting their bluff called by defendants now costs them money and that's an unacceptable outcome.

It could be Angela Paxton -- the senator who introduced the bill -- finds it too difficult to target her critics under the current law. The rookie legislator is also the wife of state Attorney General Ken Paxton. Angela Paxton has only been in office since January 8 of this year and she's already generated a ton of negative press, thanks to her initial legislative effort which seemed crafted specifically to ease her husband's legal woes.

In what state Sen. Angela Paxton describes as an effort to safely expand Texas’ burgeoning financial tech industry, the freshman Republican from McKinney has filed a bill that would empower the office of her husband, Attorney General Ken Paxton, to exempt entrepreneurs from certain state regulations so they can market “innovative financial products or services.”

One of those exemptions would be working as an “investment adviser” without registering with the state board. Currently, doing so is a felony in Texas — one for which Ken Paxton was issued a civil penalty in 2014 and criminally charged in 2015.

I'm not saying Paxton wants to start silencing her critics. But I'm not not saying that either. Her excuse for the husband-pardoning bill was that her constituents in the tech-heavy sector of Texas were looking for easing of restrictive regulations. So far, she hasn't made a similar statement about her constituents in Richardson suddenly developing concerns about Texas' anti-SLAPP restricting their restrictions of speech. All anyone can do it speculate about her motivations while being mesmerized by the new senator's blase approach to bad optics.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, angela paxton, anti-slapp, criticism, free speech, ken paxton, texas


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:15am

    Something something 230 is next. There. Saved our usual trolls the trouble.

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

    • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
      identicon
      Ed Itorial (by you know who), 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:58am

      Re: No, "AC", you just trivially gainsaid reasoned discussion.

      Read my editorial below; answers you in full even though I hadn't read any comments when wrote.

      YOU are the TROLL, "AC", and no one at all wants to read your silly off-topic one-liner.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:17am

        Re: Re: No, "AC", you just trivially gainsaid reasoned discussio

        When your comment gets flagged, I'll have a good laugh, so thanks for that in advance. 😃

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 2:08pm

        Re: Re: No U gainsaid reasoned discussion.

        “YOU are the TROLL, "AC", and no one at all wants to read your silly off-topic one-liner.”

        Careful blue boy. You know your hubby Jhon boy don’t like it when you out project him.

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

  • icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:22am

    Free speech and all, but...

    ... what's mentioned in the article directly seems secondary to what else this bill's passage would do - undermine the Truth in Advertising laws.

    It's a shot across the bows of the FTC.

    Not that they couldn't use a public spotlight put on them...

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

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:35am

      Re: Free speech and all, but...

      Since you have read the bill, and I admittedly don't have the time wading through the entiremarked up law to find the way this would impact Truth in Advertising laws, could you perhaps explain the change the law makes which makes you feel the primary effect would be to undermine those laws in a manner that is a shot across the bow of the FTC? It's an interesting claim, and I'd love to know where to look to see that effect.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:04am

      Re: Free speech and all, but...

      Truth in Advertising laws

      ... wait, those are still in effect?

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Ed Itorial (by you know who), 14 Mar 2019 @ 10:53am

    Same old comments on same old trivia that hasn't yet happened.

    Don't you guys EVER get tired of one-liner snark on local topics that matter very little even if were passed into law?

    And "Gary" sez: Hey, get your own web-site, Ed.

    No, you've missed the main feature of teh internets, "Gary".

    First, Masnick pays for the site on assumption that he can get a return from it: that's a business.

    He puts out his ideas.

    Masnick takes the "risk" (very little, actually, and for long time, he liked the return).

    But the deal in Section 230 is that he's immune from liability for comments that me and rest of The Public make.

    The Public gets to leverage a wider audience for our views off his investment. That's why we allow businesses, for OUR benefit.

    And it should be a money-maker, IS for many sites.

    Now, here's the purpose of Section 230, the synergy of business and Public: Masnick gets his notions tested in The Public's Marketplace with quick responses. That should be of value to him. -- And he shouldn't bother to put out his notions if afraid of the responses!

    But instead, Techdirt has to censor, I mean "hide", even mild dissent.

    That's what's broken with Techdirt specifiically, and nearly all of teh internets too. It's supposed to allow NEW and MORE communication, but turns out that every crank and corporation regards it as one-way propaganda by which to get mere money and power.

    That's Tim Berner-Lee's view, too, I believe. -- Oh, and probably Axel Voss's: the present rules are allowing thefts and chaos, but aren't allowing creators to profit, nor reasonable discussion. It's just all going to hell -- and Masnick doesn't mind because thinks he's one of the elite in control.

    It'd be vastly more interesting if Techdirt covered T B-L's recent complaints (again) instead of this trivial crap. With the same little clique of fanboys who "hide" any and every disagreeing comment.


    Now, the meta view here is that I just wrote up a MUCH MORE interesting and important topic. But do I get any thanks? Hell, no! Masnick will suppress this as has THOUSANDS of my comments.

    After 20 years, Masnick doesn't know what the "Step 2" on teh internets is except for "??????".

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:04am

      Re: Same old comments on same old trivia that hasn't yet happene

      "you guys"

      LOL

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:40am

      Re: HURR U DUM ME SMRT

      Cool story, bro.

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

    • identicon
      TFG, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:45am

      rabid boring nonsense

      Sorry, bored. Flagged for boring nonsense.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:52am

        'Could you at least be an entertaining lunatic?'

        That's almost impressive really, that someone can be such a troll for so long that even their usual ranting is just ignored as boring.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 14 Mar 2019 @ 11:59am

          Re: 'Could you at least be an entertaining lunatic?'

          No one has ever accused blue of being clever.

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

          • icon
            That One Guy (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 12:23pm

            Re: Re: 'Could you at least be an entertaining lunatic?'

            Oh not in the slightest, I'm well aware that that's a bar they'd really struggle to see, let alone meet, but they could at least be entertaining in their incoherent ranting(for others anyway, I ignore anything they post and flag it by default).

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 12:13pm

    Telling company they seem to keep

    House Bill 2730 and SB 2162 would allow the entity accused of filing a meritless lawsuit to drop their case just days before a hearing. This effectively allows an entity to sue a media company for defamation, receive a hearing date, and then drop the lawsuit days before a hearing to avoid a bad ruling and the cost of the defendant’s legal fees.

    So they want to modify a law meant to prevent abuse of the law and punish those that do, by explicitly legalizing a favorite tactic of copyright/patent extortionists?

    Yeah, there is no way to read their actions here as anything other than boneheaded and gullible(if someone else is merely pulling their strings) or outright malicious, attempting to protect those that abuse the legal system for personal gain and/or to go after people that say mean things about them.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 14 Mar 2019 @ 12:26pm

    WEIRD..

    Lets say he makes a comment as they Usually do..
    And is taken to court because of it..

    OMG, he now has no protection.

    and looking at the explanation...
    We could all Sue him as individuals, Run the time down, while HE PAYS THE LAWYERS to defend him, And Drop the case, 1 day before, and not Incur any ramifications???
    LETS DO IT...

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

  • identicon
    Baron von Robber, 14 Mar 2019 @ 12:52pm

    "Angela Paxton is an American politician from the state of Texas. A Republican, .."
    FFS.

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

  • identicon
    Glenn, 14 Mar 2019 @ 5:15pm

    Egos are bigger in Texas.

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

    • identicon
      Rocky, 14 Mar 2019 @ 6:33pm

      Re:

      Egos are bigger in Texas.

      Which makes them so much easier to target with critique, sarcasms and general finger pointing in regards to stupidity.

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


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