On September 7th, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed into law S.2802/A.4393, to provide anti-SLAPP protections against lawsuits known as SLAPPs (short for strategic lawsuits against public participation) designed to chill free speech. New Jersey becomes the 33rd state to adopt such a statute, which will allow courts in New Jersey to dismiss meritless lawsuits designed to silence criticism or speech on issues of public interest.
The New Jersey law is based on the Uniform Public Expression Protection Act (UPEPA), a model statute that has been adopted by four states and provides some of the strongest protections against meritless claims. These protections are vital to ensuring that journalists can freely report on matters important to the public and perform their function as unofficial watchdogs of government action. Anti-SLAPP laws also protect the general public from being intimated into silence when criticizing public officials or other powerful figures.
Charlotte McBirney is Senior Counsel and Director, Public Policy for the News/Media Alliance.