Arkansas

The Arkansas anti-SLAPP law immunizes from civil liability anyone making a privileged communication or performing an act in furtherance of the rights of free speech or petition in connection with an issue of public interest or concern unless such statements are made with knowledge of or reckless disregard for their falsity. Ark. Code Ann. 16-63-504 (2010). Acts in furtherance of the rights of free speech or petition in connection with an issue of public concern include statements made before a legislative, executive or judicial proceeding, or those relating to a matter under consideration by a governmental body. 16-63-503. A privileged communication is a statement made in the course of official duty about an issue of public concern related to the official proceeding, or criticism of any governmental proceeding or official acts of public officers so long as those opinions are expressed without knowledge of or reckless disregard for their falsity.

When a plaintiff files a lawsuit against someone for an act that reasonably could be viewed as a privileged communication or one in furtherance of the rights of free speech or petition in connection with an issue of public interest or concern, the anti-SLAPP statute requires the plaintiff and his attorney to file written verifications under oath certifying that the claim is grounded in fact and warranted by existing law or a good-faith argument for a modification of existing law. 16-63-505. If the plaintiff fails to make the verification within 10 days of being notified, most likely by the defendant, of its requirement, the court must dismiss the case. 16-63-506.

If the plaintiff submits the required verifications, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss or strike the case for improper verification. 16-63-507. The judge will hear the motion within 30 days, barring court emergencies. Discovery activities are placed on hold once the motion is filed, although the judge may order discovery to be conducted if the requesting party can show good cause for it. In ruling on the motion to dismiss or strike, an Arkansas court will likely first determine whether the verification falsely alleges that the claim is not a SLAPP suit. If that is the case, the judge will grant the motion if he also determines that the statements in the verification indicate the plaintiff or attorney either did not believe the legal claim was legitimate or brought it for an improper purpose. 16-63-505.

If a plaintiff or his attorney submits a false verification, the court will, at the request of the defendant or on its own, impose sanctions against the plaintiff, his attorney or both. The sanctions may include dismissal of the claim and an order to pay “reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the claim, including a reasonable attorney’s fee.” 16-63-506. Moreover, a prevailing SLAPP defendant may be entitled to recover damages if he can show that the claim was brought for the purpose of “harassing, intimidating, punishing, or maliciously inhibiting a person or entity from making a privileged communication or performing an act in furtherance of the right of free speech or the right to petition government . . . in connection with an issue of public interest or concern.”