Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation
Anti-SLAPP stands for "Anti-Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation". A SLAPP lawsuit is one that isn't really meritorious, but instead has been brought to harass or retaliate against the defendant because the defendant has exercised an important and lawful right under the federal or state Constitution, or some other statute. The Anti-SLAPP laws adopted by many jurisdictions essentially give the defendant an opportunity by way of a special motion to have the plaintiff's lawsuit examined and thrown out at very early stage of the proceeding, so that the defendant doesn't have to waste time and resources litigating against a lawsuit which in the end would be a loser for the plaintiff anyway.
Example. Mary has a bad experience at a restaurant, and posts an honest review of her dining experience. MegaCorporation, which owns the restaurant chain, doesn't like to have bad reviews affecting its profitability, so it sues Mary for defamation to force her to take her review down. As Mary's review would ultimately be protected by the free speech clauses of the U.S. Constitution, Mary could file an Anti-SLAPP motion to have the case quickly dismissed so that MegaCorporation could not grind her down with years of litigation.
Procedurally, an Anti-SLAPP motion is a Motion to Dismiss with special attributes; think of it as a "Motion to Dismiss on Steroids". Generally, once the defendants proves that the lawsuit is mostly about the defendant's protected speech or conduct, the burden then shifts to the plaintiff to prove that the plaintiff has a substantial likelihood of ultimately prevailing in the litigation. This gives the Court the opportunity to examine the merits of the plaintiff's case, based not just on the plaintiff's pleadings but also upon the evidence, and to kick out those cases where the defendant would be likely to win anyway. In essence, Anti-SLAPP laws empower the Court to be a gatekeeper which can refuse to admit certain lawsuits involving protected rights which are significantly devoid of real merit.
ARTICLES ON ANTI-SLAPP
2017.01.13 ... Minnesota Court Of Appeals Boots Clear And Convincing Anti-SLAPP Burden Of Proof
2015.8.29 ... A Call For A Uniform Anti-SLAPP Act
STATES/TERRITORIES WITH ANTI-SLAPP LAWS: Arizona · Arkansas · California · Delaware · Florida · Georgia · Hawaii · Illinois · Indiana · Kansas · Louisiana · Maine · Maryland · Massachusetts · Minnesota · Missouri · Nebraska · Nevada · New Mexico · New York · Oregon · Pennsylvania · Rhode Island · Tennessee · Texas · Utah · Vermont · Washington · District of Columbia
Uniform Law Commission Drafting Committee for Uniform Anti-SLAPP Act (in progress)
Proposed federal legislation: SPEAK FREE Act of 2015 (not adopted)
STATES/TERRITORIES NOT HAVING ANTI-SLAPP LAWS: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands
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