The Illinois anti-SLAPP law immunizes from civil liability “[a]cts in furtherance of the constitutional rights to petition, speech, association, and participation in government . . . regardless of intent or purpose, except when not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action, result, or outcome.” 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 110/15 (2019). The statute does not define these acts, but at least one court has applied the law to protect news coverage. Ryan v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 979 N.E.2d 954, 965 (IL App. Ct. 1st Dep’t 2012) (finding that news coverage was protected by anti-SLAPP law but affirming denial of special motion to dismiss where defendants failed to show claims were meritless).
The Illinois anti-SLAPP law gives defendants the ability to move to dismiss claims arising from the exercise of their constitutional rights to petition, speech, association, and participation in government. The court will hear and decide an anti-SLAPP motion within 90 days. 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. Ann. 110/20(a). If the court fails to do so or denies the motion, the defendant is entitled to seek expedited review in the appellate court. Id.
Discovery activities are placed on hold from the time the motion is filed until the court has ruled on it, although the judge may permit discovery, if the requesting party can show good cause for it, on the question of whether the acts at issue are immune from liability. Id. at 110/20(b).
According to the statute, the court must grant the motion unless the plaintiff can show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant’s acts were not in furtherance of the rights of petition, speech, association, or participation in government and thus not immune from liability. Id. at 110/15(c). However, courts have also required defendants to show not only that they were engaged in protected activity, but also that the lawsuit is meritless and in retaliation for the protected activity. See Ryan v. Fox Television Stations, Inc., 979 N.E.2d 954, 965 (IL App. Ct. 1st Dep’t 2012). The statute does not specify what evidence the court will consider in deciding an anti-SLAPP motion.
If the court grants the special motion to dismiss, the court “shall” award the defendant reasonable attorney’s fees and costs. Id. at 110/25.