American Bar Association Supports Federal Anti-SLAPP Legislation

Aug 27, 12

On August 7, 2012, the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates overwhelmingly adopted a resolution encouraging “federal, state and territorial legislatures to enact legislation to protect individuals and organizations who choose to speak on matters of public concern from meritless litigation designed to suppress such speech, commonly known as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation).”

The ABA is a national association of attorneys and the world’s largest voluntary professional organization, with nearly 400,000 members and more than 3,500 entities. The resolution was sponsored by the ABA’s Forum on Communications Law, and co-sponsored by the ABA’s Sections on Litigation, Tort Trial and Insurance Practice, and Individual Rights and Responsibilities.  No one rose to speak in opposition when the resolution was presented at the House of Delegates meeting in Chicago.

This exciting endorsement follows a report from the ABA that concluded “the best protection against SLAPPs is a method to quickly dismiss suits that arise from protected speech – and the ability to recover the fees, costs and damages incurred in defending the meritless suit.”  The report went on to state: “Twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the territory of Guam have enacted legislation to protect against SLAPPs, but these vary in their strength and breadth.  Moreover, there is no federal anti-SLAPP protection. Anti-SLAPP legislation is needed at a federal level to consistently protect the citizens of all states.”

The report specifically discussed the most recent version of The PETITION Act, noting that it “has many of the attractive provisions of the state statutes, including a mandatory award of attorney’s fees to the prevailing defendant, a stay of discovery, and the right to an immediate interlocutory appeal.”

Laura Prather, partner at Haynes and Boone, LLP and PPP Board Member, worked with the ABA throughout this process and said the following about the ABA action:

“Having the support of the nation’s leading group of lawyers in our effort to establish a uniform law ensuring that the First Amendment rights of all citizens are protected against meritless lawsuits brought in both state and federal courts, signifies a dedication to the future passage of anti-SLAPP measures by states who currently do not have such laws and to the further enhancement of those laws that are relatively weak in this area.  It also signifies a dedication to seeing that the U.S. Congress provide a mechanism to preserve all citizens’ free speech rights when brought into federal court—so as to minimize the efforts of forum shopping by individuals trying to get around anti-SLAPP laws.”

Here is a link to the full report and resolution: http://www.anti-slapp.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/aba.pdf

The Public Participation Project is delighted and honored to add the American Bar Association to our list of supporters of federal anti-SLAPP legislation.

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