The Texas Citizen Participation Act is that state’s version of an Anti-SLAPP law. Enacted in 2011, it’s been hailed as a model Anti-SLAPP statute. Literally – it’s been used by various model law committees for other states to follow. Perhaps it’s been too successful, as there’s now a movement within the state to significantly water that law down to the point where it might well become one of the weakest of its kind in the nation. That’s why AAN has joined the “Protect Free Speech Coalition” which was created to beat back the coming legislative threat.
Here’s a journalists’ cheat sheet on why we’re stepping into this state legislative fray and what you can do to help:
Who: The Protect Free Speech Coalition.
What: A group of journalism organizations and companies that have banded together to fend off threats to the Texas Citizen Participation Act.
When: As soon as possible. An effort is currently underway to enact significant changes to the law. Legislation has not been introduced yet, but it may already be drafted and could be introduced in the coming days.
Where: Texas (obviously). But, more specifically, before the Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee of the Texas House of Representatives.
Why: Because Anti-SLAPP laws might be the most statutory important protection for free speech under the First Amendment (for all the reasons expressed in this five year old post).
Unfortunately, many of these protections will be undercut by the proposed reforms to the Texas Citizen Participation Act. Among those changes:
- 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.
How: While AAN is adding its voice to the Coalition efforts and will make its views known, we’re asking our members to take one of two actions:
- Contact the office of Representative Jeff Leach, the Chair of the Texas House of Representatives Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee to express your opposition. You can do this by phone ((512) 463-0544) or via this web-based Email form.
- Contact other Members of the Texas House of Representatives Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence Committee to let them know how you feel.