Strengthening New York’s Anti-SLAPP Statute: Recently Enacted Legislation

Governor Cuomo signed into law a bill amending New York Civil Rights Law’s anti-SLAPP statute (“Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation”). This bill, which was supported by the Communications and Media Law Committee (Matthew L. Schafer, Chair) and the Civil Rights Committee (Zoey Chenitz and Kevin Jason, Co-Chairs), will bolster protections for individuals and news organizations targeted with harassing lawsuits based on their speech or participation in public issues, and bring New York’s law in line with the laws of several other states. Despite New York’s “consistent tradition . . . of providing the broadest possible protection to ‘the sensitive role of gathering and disseminating news of public events,’” as attacks on the press and frivolous litigation has ratcheted up in recent years, the existing law proved toothless. The new law will broaden application of the anti-SLAPP statute to any claim relating to public petition and participation (as opposed to “a claim . . . brought by a public applicant or permittee”), and make the award of fees (upon the granting of a motion to dismiss) mandatory, as opposed to discretionary, where it is shown that a claim “was commenced or continued without a substantial basis in fact and law and could not be supported by a substantial argument for the extension, modification or reversal of existing law.”