On June 23, the Authors Guild signed an Open Letter in Support of the Uniform Law Commission’s Uniform Public Expression Protection Act. This Act provides a framework for states to create their own laws against baseless lawsuits intended to keep individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights.

Thirty-two states already have laws against such suits, known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or “SLAPP,” suits.  However, the need for anti-SLAPP legislation everywhere is greater than ever given the recent increase in lawsuits meant to intimidate writers and publishers and stop them from publishing true information or opinions.

The open letter sets out six features of an effective anti-SLAPP law:

  1. Protection of all expression on matters of public concern. This would protect all speech on matters of public concern in any forum.
  2. Minimization of litigation costs by allowing defendants to file an anti-SLAPP motion in court. This would automatically halt discovery and all other proceedings until the court rules on the anti-SLAPP motion.
  3. Requiring plaintiffs to show they have a legitimate case early in the litigation. This would limit defendants’ legal fees until the court has had the opportunity to assess the validity of the lawsuit.
  4. The right to an immediate appeal of an anti-SLAPP motion ruling. Providing a defendant with the right to immediately appeal is important because lower courts can make an error in judgment. A successful appeal of a ruling denying an anti-SLAPP motion can avoid an expensive and stressful trial that would unduly burden a speaker’s First Amendment rights.
  5. Award of costs and attorney fees. This is a vital deterrent against SLAPP suits and protects a defendant from suffering financial devastation.
  6. Broad judicial interpretation of anti-SLAPP laws to protect free speech. The UPEPA and several state anti-SLAPP statutes instruct judges to read the statute broadly to protect free expression rights.

We support the effort to craft anti-SLAPP laws that will protect the right of everyone to speak out and act on public issues.

Click here to read the full open letter.