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Anti-SLAPP is Now Law in Texas!

June 17, 2011

Great news from Austin! Gov. Perry signed the Citizens Participation Act (HB 2973) into law today. You can see the stages of the effort to build the law here.

Texans who enjoy exercising their free speech owe a debt of gratitude to Laura Prather and Don Adams who partnered to move the bill through the legislative process, resulting in extraordinary support from both chambers.

Thank you to the many who supported the effort with their advice, time, energy, testimony, donations, and more, including Peter Kurdoch and Mark Goldowitz, who are fighting this same fight on a national level.

The complete text of the law, as passed by the 2011 Texas Legislature and signed into law on June 17, 2011, effective immediately, is available here.

I will continue to monitor the law and post updates here on cases that are affected by it.

Anti-SLAPP to Become Law

May 22, 2011

Great news! Over the weekend, The Citizen Participation Act, the Texas Anti-SLAPP bill  cleared its final legislative hurdle when the House concurred with the Senate amendment. Having passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously, the bill will be effective immediately upon being signed by the governor.

As the kids say—Woot!

Anti-SLAPP bill passes Texas Senate

May 18, 2011

Today the Texas Senate unanimously approved HB 2973, The Texas Citizen Participation Act, following on the heels of the Texas House, which also unanimously approved a nearly identical version of the bill in early May. Because of a small amendment passed in the Senate, the bill must go back to the House for concurrence before being off to the Governor’s desk.

More details to come!

Update on status of the Texas Anti-SLAPP bill

May 12, 2011

The Texas Citizen Participation Act continues to wind it’s way through the Texas Legislature.

After passing the House unanimously, the House Bill (HB 2973) has moved to the Senate, where it was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee. This is the same committee that heard the Senate companion bill, but in order for the House bill to go through the Senate, a committee hearing was required. This morning the State Affairs Committee amended HB 2973 to match CSSB 1565 and it was voted out of committee, 9-0. We expect the bill to be up for a vote before the state Senate next week.

We’ll continue to keep you posted on the progress of this legislation.

More Details on the Unanimous House Vote

May 4, 2011

More news from Laura Prather in Austin regarding who reports:

“HB 4973, the Texas Anti-SLAPP statute, was just passed out of the House unanimously. The bill now moves to the Texas Senate for consideration. The Senate State Affairs Committee has already approved the Senate companion bill, SB 1565, unanimously.

Because the Texas House approved HB 2973 by more than 2/3rds majority, if the Senate approves the bill in a similar fashion, the bill would take effect immediately upon Governor Perry’s signature.

We hope to be on the Senate floor early next week and will continue to keep you posted of the progress.”

Pretty impressive!!

Anti-SLAPP passes Texas House

May 4, 2011

Great late news out of Austin where Laura Prather reports that “HB 2973 (the anti-slapp bill) just passed on second reading in the House!”

Stay tuned for updates on the Senate bill.

Update in a SLAPP case

April 19, 2011

One of the cases we have been following is the Beaumont case of In Re John Does 1 and 2, a SLAPP suit aimed at revealing the identities of anonymous bloggers “Operation Kleinwatch” and “Sam the Eagle Weblog” who blog about another blogger, Philip Klein. Klein’s company (but not Klein himself) obtained a discovery order which subpoenaed from Google the identities of the anonymous bloggers. The John Does moved to squash the subpoena and the court denied the motion, ordering the identities to be revealed.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court granted mandamus relief to the anonymous bloggers, ruling the the trial court had abused its discretion.

Friday’s opinion is interesting in that it calls the allegations in the lawsuit “sketchy,” and notes that the plaintiff in the lawsuit was a company, not Philip Klein, yet the allegations in the lawsuit “mostly concern possible causes of action by Klein, who is not a party to the proceeding.” This is a classic description of a lawsuit with no merit, that is being used as a tool to harass speech.

If the Texas Citizen Participation Act had been in place, this case could probably have been handled through a motion to dismiss and might not have had to seek the extraordinary relief of a writ of mandamus ruling from the Texas Supreme Court.

Press Release by Operation Kleinwatch is here:

http://operationkleinwatch.blogspot.com/2011/04/for-immediate-release.html

Anti-SLAPP Bill Receives Unanimous Vote in Senate Committee

April 12, 2011

Austin, TX (April 12, 2011) –The Citizen Participation Act made important progress in the Texas legislature today when the Senate Committee on State Affairs voted CSSB 1565 out of committee, with a unanimous vote of seven to zero, allowing the bill to move forward for consideration by the full Senate. Last week, several Texans testified in front of the committee on behalf of the bill. Among those who testified were Shane Fitzgerald, Editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and Janet Ahmad, the president of Home Owners for Better Building. Fitzgerald told the committee about the costs to the community when newspapers are forced to defend against frivolous suits on a regular basis. Time and financial resources are spent fighting these lawsuits instead of covering the community. Ahmad testified that she was sued for racketeering by KB Homes because she organized protests of the builder. Attorney Arif Panju, of the Institute for Public Justice, shared the story of author Carla Main, who wrote a book about eminent domain entitled “Bulldozed.” After the book was published, a developer written about in the book sued Main, her publisher, the person who wrote the promotion on the back of the book, a writer who wrote a book review on the book, and the newspaper who published the book review.

Last week the Texas House Committee on Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence approved companion bill CSHB 2973 with a unanimous vote of ten to zero, allowing that bill to progress to the full House.

The Citizen Participation Act, a bi-partisan effort, is law designed to protect Texans from frivolous lawsuits targeting First Amendment rights. The internet age has created a more permanent and searchable record of public participation as citizen participation in democracy grows through self-publishing, citizen journalism and other forms of speech. Unfortunately, abuses of the legal system, aimed at silencing these citizens, have also grown. These lawsuits are often referred to as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or “SLAPP” suits. Twenty-eight U.S. jurisdictions have laws similar to the Texas Citizen Participation Act. Every Texan, from a rural housewife, to an Austin taxicab driver, to the Better Business Bureau, is a potential target of a SLAPP suit. The bill is comprised of HB 2973, sponsored by Chairman Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, and SB 1565, co-sponsored by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston and Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler.

The Citizen Participation Act “creates a mechanism to get rid of meritless lawsuits at the outset of the proceeding and it provides for a means to help alleviate some of the burden on our court system,” according to Laura Prather, a First Amendment attorney from Austin who testified last week.

 

Piece about Texas Anti-SLAPP bill

April 12, 2011

Texan journalist Kelley Shannon wrote a nice piece about the Texas Citizen Participation Act on her blog:

http://www.kelleyshannon.com/2011/04/lawmakers-look-at-anti-slapp-bills-free-speech-protection/

Busy Day at the Capitol

April 4, 2011

There’s lots of news on the Texas Citizen Participation Act from both chambers at the Texas State Capitol today.

In the House:

The House Committee on Judiciary and Civil Jurisprudence approved HB 2973 and voted it out of committee (with a vote of 10 to 0, with one absent), sending the bill to the House calendar.

In the Senate:

The Senate Committee on State Affairs held a public hearing on SB 1565. Testifying were attorneys, journalists and other citizens affected by SLAPP suits. The committee asked us for research on other states and the award of attorneys fees. Our post-hearing research revealed the following:

  • A majority of states with Anti-SLAPP laws (17 of 27) require the award of attorneys fees against a plaintiff bringing a SLAPP suit.
  • 14 of the states (also a majority) provide for punitive damage awards, sanctions, or a private cause of action.
  • Texas’ proposal is consistent with current federal legislation proposal and is a moderate approach based on what other states’ laws provide.