On Tuesday the New York government did. Andrew Cuomo finally signed anti-SLAPP legislation that the legislation passed this summer; A bill that I’ve been in favor of for several years. Getting hit by two frivolous defamation suits over my blog posts can have this effect.
Legislation provides for costs and legal fees (“should”) for frivolous defamation suits brought in order to suppress the freedom of speech of others.
I’ll get to Trump in a moment – yes, I know you saw him in the subject line – but first I want to take my hat off to the congregation woman Helene Weinstein Who has advocated this legislation for a decade? While they could have made it in the democratically controlled assembly, the Republican Senate refused to act.
For reasons that were completely unclear to me, Republicans did not think it appropriate at the time to stop frivolous suits that interfered with freedom of expression. And yet the initial right to freedom of expression is as impartial as it gets: what is good for the goose is good for the viewer.
That political dynamic changed with the Blue Wave two years ago when the New York Senate flipped the Democrats and Senator Brad Hoylman joined the party as a Senate sponsor and lawyer. This year it is over and with Cuomo’s signature it is now part of the Civil Rights Act ¶70-a.
What does this have to do with Trump?
The legislation “takes effect immediately.” Not prospectively, as most new laws point out. Now. The law can be used today to seek dismissal and attorney fees in pending lawsuits.
And who has a libel lawsuit pending in New York? Yes, New York’s most annoying former resident: Donald J. Trump.
A libel lawsuit is currently pending against which he filed a lawsuit against the New York Times earlier this year, in which the paper published a pillar of opinion about a consideration between Russian officials and Trump’s 2016 campaign:
In the essay, Mr. Frankel wrote about communication between Mr. Trump’s inner circle and Russian envoys in the run-up to the 2016 elections. He concluded that the Trump campaign and Russian officials had “an overarching agreement” rather than a “detailed electoral agreement” : “The help in the election campaign against Hillary Clinton for the quo of a new pro-Russian foreign policy”.
Now that Trump has been sworn in, he’s usually just raving about suing people for libel – can you imagine he’s sitting on a deposit today? – but this time he actually brought one.
I tore this suit when it was first brought. And reminded people of his mind-boggling defamation suit against Univision and the time he lost a defamation suit against biographer Timothy O’Brien.
The Times has already attempted to dismiss the case, but devoted only one page to a sanctions motion. The Times acknowledged that such sanctions were “sparingly” imposed in New York courts. This is something I know all too well from my own failed attempts to hold angry litigation accountable in the two lawsuits against me.
The application for release has not yet been decided. The Times can now amend its submission to the court due to a change in the law. The Times may request that legal fees be collected. And that is exactly what the Times was supposed to do.
(The NYT and Trump campaign briefs are below)
Trump, of course, isn’t the only one bringing up angry libel suits to quell negative opinions. He’s just a good example.
The suits have become more common with everyday negative comments on sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdivsor, etc. I’ve received a number of inquiries about this.
What I expect, if the attorneys defending the cases are attentive, are motions now filed under the new law not only to be dismissed but also to pay the legal fees.