New Jersey on Thursday became the 33rd state to enact an anti-SLAPP law, a move meant to protect people from lawsuits that chill free speech. (Dana DiFilippo | New Jersey Monitor)
New Jersey now has a law to discourage people from filing frivolous lawsuits meant to intimidate or silence critics.
Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act Thursday, a bipartisan measure that will allow defendants to seek expedited dismissal of lawsuits known as “SLAPPs,” short for strategic lawsuits against public participation.
These types of lawsuits historically have been used against journalists, citizen watchdogs, whistleblowers, and others who expose or publicly criticize an individual or entity that has the power and deep pockets to use the courts to suppress free speech.
“By pursuing meritless court cases, these powerful parties aim to silence their critics by making it impossible for those with fewer resources to spend the time and money necessary to legally defend themselves,” Murphy said in a statement. “This law will expedite the process to get these cases dismissed on behalf of the journalists, small businesses, activists, and countless others who have been unfairly targeted by these lawsuits over the years.”
Under the law, defendants can ask the court to require the plaintiff to demonstrate the basis for the lawsuit, speed up its timeline of the case, and pause other related legal proceedings until the dismissal request is resolved. If the lawsuit is dismissed, the defendant can recover legal fees from the plaintiff.
New Jersey joins 32 other states that have anti-SLAPP laws, according to the Public Participation Project.
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