|NMU||TEXAS||Libel||Jun 19, 2001|
Governor vetoes legislature’s fourth try at anti-SLAPP bill
- The proposed bill would have implemented steep penalties for those bringing harassing or intimidating lawsuits against people exercising their right of free speech.
Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a bill on June 17 that would have provided Texans with actual damages, attorney’s fees and exemplary damages as relief for lawsuits brought against them in “bad faith.” The proposed anti-SLAPP statute aimed to protect people from bad faith legal claims, defined as one that was “groundless” or “brought for the purpose of harassing or intimidating.”
SLAPP is an acronym for “strategic lawsuit (or litigation) against public participation.” Anti-SLAPP laws protect persons from lawsuits brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of free speech. Such statutes protect the speech of those who speak or act before public bodies on issues of public importance.
The bill, HB 2723, specified that libel litigants would have to presume that all claims and statements made to governmental agencies were made in “good faith,” although that presumption could be overcome by showing through specific facts that the speaker did not act honestly.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo), was passed by the Texas legislature on May 25. This defeat marks the fourth anti-SLAPP bill to fail in Texas in the last six years, but the first to make it to the governor’s desk.
In his veto statement, Perry said the bill was “a radical departure from traditional concepts of our adversarial justice system and the role of the courts.”
(H.B. 2723) — DB
© 2001 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press