Federal anti-SLAPP legislation makes its debut in Congress

Cristina Abello | Libel | Quicklink | December 17, 2009

The House of Representatives is considering legislation that would create a federal anti-SLAPP law to protect individuals from meritless lawsuits filed to intimidate them into refraining from criticizing a person, company, or project.

Representative Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., yesterday introduced The Citizen Participation Act of 2009 (H.R. 4364), which would be the first anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) statute to cover federal cases. Such statutes currently exist in 28 states, including California, Illinois and Louisiana.

The proposed law would provide a qualified immunity for First Amendment-protected activities and would provide for quicker dismissal of meritless cases. It also would award attorneys’ fees and costs if a defendant obtained a dismissal by showing that lawsuit arose from a protected activity and the plaintiff could not show his or her case had “minimum merit.” The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary.