Tennessee Senate Unanimously Passes Actual Anti-SLAPP Bill

from the go-forth-and-opine-freely dept

Some good news is one the way for Tennesseans. Attorney Daniel Horwitz -- who knows his way around stupid libel lawsuits -- sends word that a revamp of the state's mostly-useless anti-SLAPP law is a step or two away from landing on the governor's desk.

The current law does nothing to shield citizens from bogus lawsuits clearly intended to silence criticism. This lack of protection has resulted in a number of merit-less lawsuits being filed. One of the most ridiculous -- a former university program head suing his replacement for things a journalist said -- managed to make its way all the way up to the state's appeal court. In the end, the defendant was awarded $10,000 in legal fees, but none of that was guaranteed when the plaintiff started wasting everyone's time and money.

As the law stands now in Tennessee, only communications to public officials about public entities are shielded from defamation lawsuits. It doesn't cover things like negative reviews of businesses, criticism of any public figure, or -- like the case above -- things defendants never actually said.

The new law would actually function like an anti-SLAPP law should. It would halt discovery until a ruling on the anti-SLAPP motion and allow the prevailing party to recover fees.

Under this bill, if a legal action is filed in response to a party's exercise of the right of free speech, right to petition, or right of association, that party may petition the court to dismiss the legal action. All discovery in the legal action will be stayed upon the filing of a petition pursuant to this bill and the stay of discovery will remain in effect until the entry of an order ruling on the petition. The court may allow specified and limited discovery relevant to the petition upon a showing of good cause.

The petitioning party will have the burden of making a prima facie case that a legal action against the petitioning party is based on, relates to, or is in response to that party's exercise of the right to free speech, right to petition, or right of association. If the petitioning party meets this burden, the court will dismiss the legal action unless the responding party establishes a prima facie case for each essential element of the claim in the legal action.

The bill passed both the state House and Senate, with the Senate sending a message with a decisive 33-0 vote in favor of the bill. If this passes, Tennessee will join the small minority of states willing to protect their residents from frivolous lawsuits filed solely to shut them up.

Filed Under: 1st amendment, anti-slapp, defamation, free speech, tennessee


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 12:05pm

    Next step: Getting Congress to stop being ridiculous assholes long enough to pass a federal anti-SLAPP bill into law.

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

  2. identicon
    Baron von Robber, 9 Apr 2019 @ 12:05pm

    Wow...when did Tennessee become the smart one?

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

  3. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 12:40pm

    Re:

    Simple. Just show them how it helps THEM to gain money, power, and status.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2019 @ 1:11pm

    Re: Re:

    Obvious solution: let's all start a GoFundMe to hire lawyers to sue everyone in Congress for defamation.

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

  5. icon
    Avatar28 (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 2:14pm

    Re:

    Your guess is as good as mine. Most of the time this state drives me nuts trying to shut down anything progressive that Nashville and Memphis do but they occasionally have their breakthrough moments like this and being the first to offer free college tuition to all adult residents who don't have a degree.

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

  6. icon
    Vidiot (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 2:23pm

    Hard to even say the word "Tennessee" without thinking first of Marcia Blackburn. Maybe a good, hard, one-P SLAP would dislodge a few AT&T paychecks from her purse.

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

  7. icon
    HegemonicDistortion (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 3:19pm

    Re:

    Well, one of our legislature's recent priorities has been to try to block city/county govts from banning plastic bags, so let's not get hasty with the accolades yet. The year is young and still so many opportunities to propose backward or stupid legislation.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Apr 2019 @ 5:50pm

    "Noooooooo!" screamed Hamilton.

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

  9. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Magicfinger (profile), 9 Apr 2019 @ 11:02pm

    Great Post

    Thanks For Sharing A Valuable Content, Its Very useful for Me............!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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

  10. icon
    Christopher (profile), 10 Apr 2019 @ 4:53am

    It's a one-off

    They still elect Blackburn, and she still makes sure you can't run muni fiber or compete with her biggest donors.

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

  11. icon
    Scott S. (profile), 10 Apr 2019 @ 10:24am

    Yet another weak anti-SLAPP law that doesn't provide statutory damages awards to the actual victims of SLAPP suits. Surprise! The only ones who get paid are the attorneys.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Apr 2019 @ 4:51pm

    Re:

    More lessons on politeness and respect I see

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Apr 2019 @ 11:29pm

    Re: Re:

    So it is fine to call a group of affiliated people, such as LGBTQRS, a bunch of ridiculous assholes? Or is it just okay for you? Tell us oh superior one

    Looks like you have been trolling the other threads where you say people should be treated with politeness and respect.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
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.