On Tuesday this week, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York State signed legislation that strengthens the protection from frivolous lawsuits. Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPP suits, are a strategic form of litigation that is used by wealthy plaintiffs to obstruct the freedom of speech. By tying defendants up in the courts, they can effectively silence them and drain their resources.
Governor Cuomo stated:
“For too long, powerful and wealthy interests have used frivolous lawsuits to harass and intimidate critics by burdening them with exorbitant legal fees and time consuming legal processes. That ends now. I am proud to sign this legislation, which protects New Yorkers’ fundamental right to free speech without fear of harassment or bullying by those who happen to have more money than they do.”
Under the previous Civil Rights laws, New York residents weren’t able to be awarded fees associated with the court case. Under the new legislation, if the lawsuit is determined to be frivolous, costs and legal fees will be awarded to the victims of the suits.
This legislation is a step forward in protecting our First Amendment rights and will prove to be protection for editorial cartoonists and comics creators across the state. Just this past year we’ve seen editorial cartoonists targeted for their work by lawsuits. Currently, 30 states and the District of Columbia have anti-SLAPP statutes in place; hopefully, laws continue to go into effect, and the freedom of speech will continue to be protected.
You can find the press release here.