Authors Guild Signs Letter in Support of Anti-SLAPP Statute

From The Authors Guild:

On July 14, the Authors Guild, along with many publishers and other media organizations, signed a letter to Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature urging them to pass a bill designed to update and strengthen New York State’s current anti-SLAPP statute. As the letter states, “SLAPP lawsuits are an intolerable form of private censorship. It is more critical than ever that New York, the media capitol of the world, provide robust protection against meritless claims designed to chill speech.”

Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation—or “SLAPP” suits—are baseless lawsuits intended to keep individuals from exercising their First Amendment rights to speak about and act on public issues. There has been a dramatic increase in litigation designed to chill constitutionally protected speech in recent years; within the past month alone, there have been two separate lawsuits brought to quash books critical of President Trump. Anti-SLAPP laws are designed to provide defendants with a mechanism to resolve lawsuits that implicate defendants’ First Amendment rights without incurring the kind of devastating legal fees that the plaintiffs of these baseless lawsuits can otherwise force defendants to incur. As the New York State Bar Association Committee on Media Law stated in its memo in support of the bill, “funds that would have gone to reporters, editors, and producers are instead spent in a defense of a lawsuit.”

New York’s current anti-SLAPP law is less protective of free speech than the laws of 30 other states and is in dire need of amendment to protect the state’s thousands of journalists and authors.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild

PG is generally supportive of Anti-SLAPP protections.

He will point out that lawyers will be representing people and organizations on both sides of such litigation.

For any who take offense at that idea, PG will go back to his early years in the private practice of law in a low-income rural area.

Before the advent of Public Defenders, when a destitute individual was charged with a crime, providing that individual with an attorney was the responsibility of the judge presiding in that case.

PG’s first appointment was made by a judge who correctly concluded that PG had extra time on his hands and he proceeded on his first criminal case. The individual implied that he might possibly have done something he shouldn’t have done.

The practice of most criminal defense attorneys is to never ask a client if she/he is guilty of the committing a crime. A recommended approach is to ask the client what the police claim she/he has done, then ask about where the police went wrong, whether anyone can testify that the defendant was somewhere else at the time the alleged crime was allegedly committed, etc.

The overall idea is that, when the state focuses its powers and authority for the purpose of punishing an individual who is probably unfamiliar with the law and its complexity, the accused should have access to someone with legal expertise to provide assistance and require that the prosecutor prove the state’s case as required by applicable laws before the individual may be punished.

It is not unusual for a prosecutor to over-charge a defendant. The defendant may have done something wrong, but the prosecutor files a charge that is more severe than is likely supported by the facts or is not appropriate if the facts are different than the prosecutor or police believe they are.

PG could go on (there’s a first time for everything), but he’ll stop now.

1 thought on “Authors Guild Signs Letter in Support of Anti-SLAPP Statute”

  1. Of course the example of “bad” lawsuits are the two involving books critical of Donald Trump. The one involves the failure to have the book reviewed for classified material (a very big no-no under the law); the second revolves around an NDA breach by the writer.

    No mention of the lawfare practiced to suppress views unfavorable to the “approved” ideologies.

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