59 Legal Scholars Sign Letter Supporting SPEAK FREE Act To Create Federal Anti-SLAPP Law (Forbes Cross-Post)
The First Amendment plays a crucial role in protecting free speech in our country, but the Constitution only sets a floor, not a ceiling, for what legislatures must do to promote free speech. Legislatures can, and do, go further to advance free speech interests.
Anti-SLAPP laws are an excellent example of how legislatures can productively supplement the First Amendment’s free speech protections. In a nutshell, anti-SLAPP laws create a procedural fast lane for ending abusive lawsuits intended to squelch socially beneficial speech. These lawsuits receive faster judicial processing; and if the judge finds the case is abusive, the lawsuit is dismissed quickly and the plaintiff must pay the defendant’s legal defense costs. See my prior post explaining why these procedural benefits are so valuable to free speech.
H.R. 2304, nicknamed the “SPEAK FREE Act of 2015,” would create a new federal anti-SLAPP law. Substantively, the SPEAK FREE Act would have two main effects. First, the law would apply anti-SLAPP protection across the nation, extending the protections to the 20+ states that haven’t yet enacted an anti-SLAPP law. Second, the law would newly apply anti-SLAPP protections to federal claims in federal court, something that state anti-SLAPP laws can’t do. The bill has garnered substantial bipartisan cosponsorship, which makes sense. Free speech isn’t a partisan issue; it affects everyone.
Yesterday, on behalf of myself and 58 other law professors and legal scholars, I sent a short letter to several Congressional leaders expressing support for the SPEAK FREE Act. Signatories came from all over the country, as indicated by this map:
I encourage you to take a closer look at our letter, the SPEAK FREE Act, and the potential benefits of federal anti-SLAPP laws. Then, I hope you’ll share your views with your Congressmembers.
Note: I’m a board member of the Public Participation Project, an organization advocating for a federal anti-SLAPP law.