NNA joins national anti-SLAPP campaign

September 15, 2011

WASHINGTON—The National News-paper Association has signed on to a national campaign to provide newspapers and others that exercise free press and speech rights to force early resolution of lawsuits intended to silence them.

A federal law called the Public Participation Act promoted by the Citizens Participation Project has attracted a wide audience of newspaper and civic groups to replicate at the federal level an “anti-SLAPP” law. SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. Anti-SLAPP laws are effectively used in California and 24 other states to bring a quick halt to some defamation and other legal actions. Anti-SLAPP actions may be brought by a defendant to seek a judge’s review of whether the primary purpose of a lawsuit is not to seek recovery of damages but to cause the speaker or publisher to stop further expression or action on a civic matter.

The intention of the Citizens Participation Project is to pass a federal statute that would enable a defending newspaper or other speaker to move a case to federal court where a judge could determine whether the underlying intention of the suit is to stop expression or public participation in an issue. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-TN, proposed such a law in the 111th Congress. A similar bill is expected in the Senate in this Congress.

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