John Dean Critiques Defamation Lawsuits Against Eliot Spitzer

Sep 16, 11

Columnist John Dean’s new article “A Closer Look at the Defamation Lawsuits Against Eliot Spitzer: Why They Seem Quite Weak” from Justia:


“What About an Anti-SLAPP Action?

After reading the Gilman complaint, my first reaction was that Eliot Spitzer might have a strong anti-SLAPP action.  “SLAPP” is an acronym for “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation.” Such suits—and some of the anti-SLAPP statutes authorizing action against such suits are decades-old now—are filed to end public comment about matters of public interest, and used to harass those who engage in public dialogue.

Anti-SLAPP laws, in turn, enable a defendant confronted with a SLAPP to cut short the litigation process (for merely responding to a lawsuit can be time-consuming and expensive), by forcing plaintiffs to show that their lawsuit is not frivolous.  California, for example, has strong anti-SLAPP provisions to prevent such lawsuit from chilling speech.

Unfortunately, however, I found that New York’s anti-SLAPP law is very narrow.  It is limited to actions relating to “a permit, zoning change, lease, license, certificate or other entitlement for use or permission to act from any government body.”  Sadly, New York has lagged beyond other states, failing to truly give its anti-SLAPP law a broad scope, and real teeth.

Indeed, if New York had a stronger anti-SLAPP law, Gilman might find he was paying Slate and Spitzer for their costs, and the attorney fees they have expended, in getting the case tossed.

As it is, it will be interested to see how Judge Sullivan, a young George W. Bush appointee who’s been on the bench for just four years, will resolve the case.”

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