On February 28, AAN joined the Protect Free Speech Coalition. This growing coalition consists of organizations from Texas and around the country who are all dedicated to preserving the Texas Citizen Participation Act. At the time we announced our participation in the coalition, drastic changes to Texas’ Anti-SLAPP law were merely expected; now they are a reality, as legislation has been introduced in both the Texas House (as HB 2730) and Senate (as SB 2162). So the it’s time to make our voices heard.
AAN sent this letter to every member of the Texas House Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committeeand the Texas Senate Committee on State Affairs HB 2730 and SB 2162. We really hope you’ll do the same, whether you are one of our Texas-based members or not. Anti-SLAPP laws are important to all of us. Among the benefits of these laws are the possibility of:
- Getting the case dismissed through the imposition of a heightened pleading standard imposed on the plaintiff;
- Reduced expense in defending against the lawsuit as the timetable for court resolution is accelerated and the always-expensive discovery phase often “stayed” pending resolution;
- “Interlocutory appeal” upon the granting or denial of a motion to dismiss (again, postponing or even eliminating discovery or a trial); and
- Obtaining attorney’s fees if you are successful in getting the case dismissed.
But, as we noted in our earlier post, the proposed changes will:
- Significant limitations on the law’s reach, as it may be limited to just speech before government bodies or public speech on matters of public concern;
- Allowing discovery to proceed even after an Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss has been filed (the discovery stay is one of the most beneficial protections under the Texas Citizen Participation Act and other Anti-SLAPP laws, as it significantly reduces the costs of defending against the suit);
- Limiting the right of interlocutory appeal (immediate appeal after the grant or, more importantly, denial of an Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss; also very helpful in reducing costs as discovery and trial do not occur until this process is completed);
- Requiring that the “loser pay” when an Anti-SLAPP Motion to Dismiss is filed, which potentially will deter the use of this process; and
- Removing mandatory sanctions against a plaintiff that has filed a frivolous lawsuit.
It doesn’t take much to speak out. The letter AAN sent to Texas legislators was cribbed (at the invitation of the Protect Free Speech Coalition) from a sample letter available on the Coalition website. You can use that letter – or create your own.
But wait, there’s more! Ideally, you’ll let your readers know how important this is so they can register their disdain as well. The Coalition has a “Take Action” page with specific steps anyone can take to be heard. The Protect Free Speech Coalition also has Facebook and Twitter feeds for broader sharing of information. Of course, old school reporting and editorializing helps too. Again, the Coalition website has lots of background, but you can always contact AAN Legal Counsel Kevin M. Goldberg at 703-812-0462 or email@example.com for more information.