Libel Tourism Law Looks Like It Will Pass

The U.S. Senate passed a law that will make libel judgments from other countries void in the United States unless the judgment was won in a trial where First Amendment rights were taken into account. (source). Previous posts on this issue here, here, and here.

It looks like the bill will pass the house as well.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, a Democrat, charged that libel judgments in foreign courts were “undermining” freedom of speech and of the press and “chilling” open debate in the United States.

“While we cannot legislate changes to foreign law that are chilling protected speech in our country, we can ensure that our courts do not become a tool to uphold foreign libel judgments that undermine American First Amendment or due process rights,” he said in a statement. (source)

While this is good news for free speech, it really only will affect two or three Americans per year. What would be a *lot* stronger medicine would be if someone dealt with inter-state libel tourism. We need a federal anti-SLAPP law . It really doesn’t do any good to protect Americans from unconstitutional defamation judgments from foreign countries when you can still bankrupt virtually any American by filing a bogus defamation suit against them in the 48 states without real anti-SLAPP legislation.

7 Responses to Libel Tourism Law Looks Like It Will Pass

  1. […] positive congressional move, albeit a bit technical in application (and as Marc Randazza argues, a relatively small step toward broader protection for online speech).  The SPEECH Act clearly targets the growing practice […]

  2. Andrew says:

    I’m not an attorney, so would you mind telling me if this criticism of HR 4364 is valid (see: )

    It looks like it might cause more harm than good. Would HR 4364 really prevent me (a small nobody) from suing a large company?

  3. He’s full of shit. California already has an anti-SLAPP law that is virtually identical to the one proposed by Rep. Cohen. It has not prevented the little guy from suing the big guy in defamation claims. It has not even made defamation cases harder to win. It has simply meant that you must front-load the defamation case.

    Here’s what it does to bottom feeders though. Bottom feeders file bullshit defamation suits, knowing full well that they cost a lot to defend, and that by the time you win your defense, you are usually screwed out of $25,000 or more. But, bottom-feeding defamation plaintiff’s lawyers love that fact, because it means that merely filing suit will often result in a payment.

  4. Max Kennerly says:

    Try “front-loading” an allegation of malice against a media company. I dare you. You won’t have a shred of discovery with which to do it, you’ll just have an allegation of falsity, and you’ll get dismissed.

    As I noted in my post, there are plenty of cases that should get anti-SLAPP protection, like cases involving uninsured defendants or individuals. Individuals who criticize businesses on Twitter or make comments at public hearings or are otherwise participating in the public sphere should have special protections.

    But there isn’t the slightest need for wealthy, insured media companies like the NYTimes — which hasn’t paid a penny to settle a case in fifty years, and so offers nothing but trouble to bottom-feeding lawyers — to have anti-SLAPP protections. Offering them anti-SLAPP protection just tips the First Amendment scale in favor of the entities that already have the biggest soapboxes in the country, tipping it against the powerless individuals they harm with shoddy and sensational reporting.

    • If you know how to plead it, you can do it. You don’t just allege falsity. You allege knowing falsity and/or reckless disregard for the truth. Plenty of plaintiffs succeed in cases against media companies, both in reported decisions and in private settlements.

      If a media company engages in “shoddy and sensational reporting,” they’ll be made to pay if the case is there. Take a look at Murphy v. Boston Herald, 449 Mass. 42 (2007) as one notable and recent example. An anti-SLAPP bill would benefit the little blogger and the big media company alike … guess what, you bottom feeding TTT nitwit, that’s how the Constitution works. It applies to all of us.

      Now go throw your business card around an emergency room and get the fuck off of my blog, bottom feeder.

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