Libel tourism bill passes House Judiciary Committee

Samantha Fredrickson | Libel | Feature | June 12, 2009

The House Judiciary Committee on Thursday passed a bill aimed at dulling the domestic effects of so-called "libel tourism," whereby plaintiffs seek out countries with heavy-handed defamation laws in which to sue over publications they don't like.

The bill that passed, H.R. 2765, put forth by Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), would prevent American courts from recognizing foreign libel judgments that are deemed "repugnant" to the First Amendment. It does not go as far as two other libel tourism bills under consideration in Congress, both of which would allow libel defendants to counter-sue the plaintiffs who bring such claims against them in foreign courts.

Those bills -- H.R. 1304, sponsored by Rep. Peter King (R-NY), and S. 449, sponsored by Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) -- have not yet been put to a vote.

Cohen’s bill passed the full House last September, but that was as far as it got before the congressional session ended.  

All three of the libel tourism bills were introduced after New York author Rachel Ehrenfeld was ordered by a British court to pay 30,000 British pounds in a libel lawsuit brought by billionaire Saudi businessman Khalid bin Mahfouz.