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Reporters Committee Executive Director Brown urges lawmakers to pass federal anti-SLAPP statute

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In testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Reporters Committee for Freedom of…

In testimony prepared for the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press Executive Director Bruce Brown tells lawmakers that the time has come to enact a federal anti-SLAPP law.

“State anti-SLAPP laws have been very useful in helping journalists and other defendants avoid frivolous litigation as they report on or engage in public controversies. But a federal statute is needed because not all states have anti-SLAPP laws and some federal courts will not apply state provisions in federal courts in diversity-jurisdiction cases,” according to Brown’s testimony in support of the Speak Free Act, H.R. 2304.

Brown is slated to be among the witnesses at a subcommittee hearing June 22 at 1 p.m. in room 2226 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The hearing will be webcast live at https://judiciary.house.gov/.

As Brown’s testimony explains, “Anti-SLAPP [Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation] statutes are an effective way to terminate meritless lawsuits, thus reducing burdens on the courts, and at the same time promoting the exercise of speech rights. While journalists and news organizations certainly benefit from these laws, anyone who speaks out on controversial matters enjoys the benefit of anti-SLAPP protections.”

The Reporters Committee, he notes, has “extensively supported” anti-SLAPP legislation and has filed appeals and briefs in several cases in recent years across the country.

“As our own work shows, anti-SLAPP laws have been used effectively in many contexts and across the political spectrum,” according to Brown. “Cases in which the Reporters Committee has filed briefs have concerned lawsuits over disputed medical cures, allegations of evidence tampering by climate researchers, claims of corruption of Palestinian Authority officials, a Wikipedia entry about the shooting deaths of Iraqi civilians by U.S. government contractors, a debate regarding an anti-Israel boycott by members of a food co-op, and arguments over whether Mitt Romney should have rejected donations from a conservative billionaire. Each case has arisen from a controversy on a matter in which the public has an important interest.”

Brown’s complete written testimony is posted on the Reporters Committee website.

About the Reporters Committee

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was founded by leading journalists and media lawyers in 1970 when the nation’s news media faced an unprecedented wave of government subpoenas forcing reporters to name confidential sources. Today it provides pro bono legal representation, amicus curiae support, and other legal resources to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Funded by corporate, foundation and individual contributions, the Reporters Committee serves the nation’s leading news organizations; thousands of reporters, editors, and media lawyers; and many more who use our online and mobile resources. For more information, go to rcfp.org, or follow us on Twitter @rcfp.

Related Reporters Committee resources:

· Brief: Testimony of Bruce Brown before the House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice re: Speak Free Act, H.R. 2304