anti-slapp defamation

Internet Defamation: Anti-SLAPP Laws

By John DiGiacomo

Due to the nefarious nature of SLAPP suits, 28 states to date have enacted anti-SLAPP statutes. These laws aim to limit SLAPP suits either by making them harder to bring in the first place or by cutting them short once they are filed to prevent defendants from having to give up a court battle. While some of these laws are more effective than others, they share the end goal of reducing SLAPP suits.

State Statutes

Most state anti-SLAPP statutes accomplish their goal through a procedural tool allowing defendants to file a special motion at the outset of the case which strikes down the complaint pursuant to requirements listed in the statute. Generally, these requirements focus on the speech at issue. For instance, if the speech was about any forthcoming legislation or other political maneuvers, if the speech was in a public forum and related to matter of public interest, or if the speech related to a public figure, the statute allows the defendant to file the special motion to get rid of the complaint.

States Lacking Statutes

Because not all states have anti-SLAPP laws enacted and there is no current federal anti-SLAPP statute, another problem has emerged: that of “forum-shopping.” Occasionally, plaintiffs have the ability to file a defamation lawsuit in a jurisdiction that does not have an anti-SLAPP statute as an obstacle. This can lead to problems because most of the time, defendants cannot change the venue of the lawsuit and therefore get no protection against the antagonistic lawsuit.

And lack of controlling law isn’t the only obstacle defendants may face: courts have superseded anti-SLAPP statutes using federal law, like copyright law and rules of evidence.

California as a Case Study

The California anti-SLAPP statute was considered one of the weaker state laws. “A search for reported cases on SLAPP litigation in 2009 found 1,386 cases for the State of California alone. The rest of the states combined had about 341, of which Massachusetts accounted for 176.” See, Wikipedia Article, citing Navellier v. Sletten; and California Anti-SLAPP Project www.casp.net. The large volume of cases in California spurred debate about the effectiveness of the anti-SLAPP law in the nation’s most populous state. California then passed two amendments to the law and, thanks to all of that litigation, the state’s courts have created a generous body of case law that has righted the ship. Now California stands as an excellent example of what anti-SLAPP laws can accomplish.

Defamation Attorneys

SLAPP suits and anti-SLAPP laws occupy a convoluted and often inconsistent body of law. It is important to find a good attorney who knows the law and understands how the law operates in cyberspace. If you have been hit with a SLAPP suit, or have been accused of defamation, contact one of our expert Internet Defamation Attorneys at 855-473-8474.

 

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