The Speak Free Act is a federal anti-SLAPP bill introduced in the House of Representatives on a bipartisan basis by Reps Anna Eshoo and Texas Republican Blake Farenthold.
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and describe lawsuits filed primarily to discourage, harass and intimidate public participation and free speech.
Anti-SLAPP laws provide a way for those targeted via SLAPP suits get the suits dismissed fairly rapidly and avoid being drained by long and resource-consuming lawsuits designed not to prevail on the merits, but to exhaust the target into silencing themselves to get out from under the lawsuit.
As long-time advocates for civic engagement, public participation, whistleblower rights, and the right of principled dissent, we see the Speak Free Act as a needed corrective for a common form of abuse of the judicial system.
The federal law would be of significant value for defendants in the 22 states that do not have anti-SLAPP laws, allowing cases brought in state courts to be transferred to federal court. The proposed law also allows SLAPP defendants to retain their anonymity which in cases related to online communications can sometimes be an important matter for physical safety. The proposed law awards attorneys fees for defendants when cases are found to be without merit, an important disincentive for harassment/intimidation motivations that sometimes cause the filing of SLAPP suits.
Anti-SLAPP legislation has been effective in California on a statewide basis and expanding it to the federal level sounds good to us.
Media Alliance supports the bill and asks Bay Area legislators to co-sponsor the bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
In this September 2016 op-ed in The Hill, R Street fellow Bill Godwin lays out a convincing case for the protection of on-line speech.
59 law professors and scholars signed the below letter in support of the Speak-Free Act of 2015.