The Nebraska anti-SLAPP statute protects defendants in legal actions involving public petition and participation. Neb. Rev. Stat. 25-21, 243 (2010). An action involving public petition and participation is a public applicant or permittee’s action for damages “materially related to any efforts of the defendant to report on, comment on, rule on, challenge, or oppose the application or permission[.]” 25-21, 242. A “public applicant or permittee” is defined as “any person who has applied for or obtained a permit, zoning change, lease, license, certificate, or other entitlement for use or permission to act from any government body or any person with an interest, connection, or affiliation with such person that is materially related to such application or permission.”

The statute does not provide for a specific anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss. However, it says a court considering a motion to dismiss an action involving public petition and participation filed under existing procedural rules must expedite and grant preference in hearing the motion. 25-21, 245. Nebraska’s anti-SLAPP law is one of only a handful to not address whether an anti-SLAPP motion suspends discovery proceedings.

The law requires the court to grant the motion unless the plaintiff can show that the claim has a substantial basis in law or is supported by a substantial argument for a modification of existing law. The plaintiff must also establish by clear and convincing evidence that the communication was made with knowledge of or reckless disregard for its falsity if such truth or falsity is material to the underlying claim. 25-21, 244. The statute does not specify what evidence a court will consider in making this determination.

If the court grants the motion to dismiss, it may — but is not required to — order the plaintiff to pay the prevailing SLAPP defendant’s costs and attorney fees. 25-21, 243. Moreover, it may award damages to a successful defendant who can show that the plaintiff brought the claim “for the purpose of harassing, intimidating, punishing, or otherwise maliciously inhibiting the free exercise of petition, speech, or association rights.”