We’ve mentioned many times the importance of anti-SLAPP laws in protecting people who are being sued solely to try to shut them up. It’s still a travesty that we don’t have a federal anti-SLAPP law but are reliant on various state anti-SLAPP laws. In case you’re not familiar with them, SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” Anti-SLAPP laws basically allow people who are sued to quickly get lawsuits dismissed when it’s obvious that the entire point of the lawsuit is to silence whoever is being sued, rather than for any legitimate legal purpose. For years, California was seen as having one of the best anti-SLAPP laws, but in recent years both Texas and Nevada upped the ante in anti-SLAPP laws, making them even stronger. Nevada’s had a particularly useful feature: it would award “reasonable costs, attorney’s fees and monetary relief” for defendants who were wrongfully hit with SLAPP suits. Basically, it provided a real deterrent against SLAPP suits.
However, just two years after unanimously passing that bill, the Nevada Senate has just unanimously repealed that important provision, in the form of SB 444. If you take a look at the bill, you’ll see it explicitly repeals the fee shifting section. Apparently, some people didn’t like the fact that they might have to pay up for filing bogus lawsuits trying to stifle speech. If that were all it did it, it would be tragic enough, but as Popehat clearly describes, the bill also undermines the rest of the anti-SLAPP law in pretty nefarious ways, making the existing rules toothless.
The bill still needs to go through the state assembly and be signed by the governor, but it’s really disappointing to see Nevada move backward on anti-SLAPP laws just as much of the rest of the country is moving forward. Nevada provided a useful anti-SLAPP model, but apparently someone wasn’t happy about that.