Governor Signs Anti-SLAPP Bill – Provides Greater Protection for Broadcast Journalists

We are delighted that Governor Cuomo signed the Anti-SLAPP bill into law last week.  SLAPP stands for Strategic Law Suits Against Public Policy. SLAPP lawsuits are frivolous lawsuits filed against individuals and media companies for the purpose of stifling public discussion by imposing significant litigation costs.

While New York’s had an anti-SLAPP statute for years, it was construed very narrowly and so as to afford little or no protection to journalists.  The old statute applied only in the context of statements made when obtaining an application.

The scope of the new law is much broader, thereby providing greater First Amendment protections for broadcast journalists.  Under the new law, the anti-SLAPP protects:  1) any communication in a place open to the public or a public forum in connection with an issue of public interest; or (2) any other lawful conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of public interest, or in furtherance of the exercise of the constitutional right of petition.

In addition, losing parties that filed a frivolous SLAPP lawsuit may be subject to pay the defendants (i.e. broadcast journalist’s) attorney’s fees.  A court may dismiss such a frivolous case unless the person filing the lawsuit demonstrates a “substantial basis in fact and law” (or substantial argument for an extension, modification or reversal of existing law).  More importantly, the new law requires all discovery proceedings to be “stayed” will the court makes this determination.  This process will save broadcast journalists thousands of dollars in pre-trial litigation costs.

NYSBA supported this legislation and lobbied to get it enacted. New York journalists now have one of the strongest Anti-SLAPP laws in the country to protect them.  We want to thank Governor Cuomo for signing this important legislation into law.

For additional information regarding the Anti-SLAPP legislation click HERE.


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