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Sen. Farnese Thanks Philly Councilman Squilla for His Anti-SLAPP Resolution Urging PA House to Consider SB 95
On March 4, 2016
PHILADELPHIA, March 4, 2016 – Eight months after the PA Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of his bill to stop deep-pocketed corporations from filing lawsuits against people or groups just to quiet them, state Sen. Larry Farnese today said he is pleased to hear that Philadelphia City Council is supporting the idea and urging the legislature to finish the job.
Councilman Mark Squilla has introduced a resolution in city council chambers calling for the PA House of Representatives to finally vote on Sen. Farnese’s anti-SLAPP proposal, Senate Bill 95.
“Councilman Squilla’s support is much appreciated and could be the trigger to getting my bill through the legislature to the governor’s desk,” Farnese said. “My anti-SLAPP proposal will help every community in Pennsylvania that wants to ensure true First Amendment protections for their residents.
“Corporations and well-heeled organizations should not be allowed to violate the constitutional rights of private citizens and groups who voice their opposition to them but cannot afford to fight them in court.”
The Senate adopted Farnese’s SB 95 on a 48-1 vote, June 30. The bill is before the House Judiciary Committee, where it has been since July 6.
SLAPP stands for Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation. If it becomes law, it would set up a motion to dismiss that would allow for an expedited response in the courts to quickly determine if a lawsuit is frivolous, or a SLAPP. It would also trigger a “loser pays” clause if it is decided a lawsuit was baseless.
The City Council resolution “urges the Pennsylvania General Assembly to consider Senate Bill 95 regarding Anti-SLAPP legislation to help protect individuals and organizations from frivolous litigation brought by persons or corporations that is aimed at delaying, suppressing or intimidating those that speak out against an issue of public concern.”
Under Sen. Farnese’s proposal, if someone has engaged in protected communication they would receive immunity from civil action.
If a judge approves a motion to dismiss a lawsuit, the person or group originally sued would be allowed to recover attorney fees and costs. Awarded damages would be a minimum of $10,000.
One attorney who has been fighting against these kinds of frivolous lawsuits, Garen Meguerian, said the House needs to act.
“The First Amendment is our most important right. To make someone pay for speaking is as devastating as ripping out his tongue,” Meguerian said. “There couldn’t be anything more important to our democracy. If we want people to be vocal, challenge authority, and start public debates, we can’t allow someone to threaten them into silence.”
Contact: Mark Shade