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Anti-SLAPP Legal Guide

Anti-SLAPP laws provide defendants a way to quickly dismiss meritless lawsuits — known as SLAPPs or strategic lawsuits against public participation — filed against them for exercising speech, press, assembly, petition, or association rights. These laws aim to discourage the filing of SLAPP suits and prevent them from imposing significant litigation costs and chilling protected speech.

In recent years, several states have adopted or amended their anti-SLAPP laws. As of September 2023, 33 states and the District of Columbia have anti-SLAPP laws, including Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. Minnesota previously passed an anti-SLAPP law, but it was struck down as unconstitutional, as discussed below.

Anti-SLAPP protections vary significantly from state to state. For example, in some states, like Massachusetts, they only protect defendants from cases brought in retaliation for petitioning the government. In others, such as California, the laws broadly protect speech made in connection with a public issue. For the most part, anti-SLAPP laws are broad enough to cover SLAPP suits aimed at silencing or retaliating against journalists or news outlets for critical reporting. These laws typically provide critical protections to the news media—allowing defendants to secure a quick dismissal before the costly discovery process begins, permitting defendants who win their anti-SLAPP motions to recover attorney’s fees and costs, automatically staying discovery once the defendant has filed an anti-SLAPP motion, and allowing defendants to immediately appeal a trial court’s denial of an anti-SLAPP motion.

This anti-SLAPP legal guide provides a general introduction to each state’s anti-SLAPP law, to the extent one exists. It does not replace the legal advice of an attorney in one’s own state when confronted with a specific legal problem. Journalists who have additional questions or need assistance finding a lawyer with experience litigating these types of claims can contact the Reporters Committee’s hotline.

Special thanks to Laura Prather, a partner at Haynes and Boone, for her assistance with the original version of this guide, and Austin Vining, a law student and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Florida, class of 2021, for his assistance in updating this guide in July 2019.