In 2013, Nevada enacted an anti-SLAPP law… something all states should have, but only 28 do (and those laws vary in quality). SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation.” It’s basically the type of lawsuit that is filed in order to get people to shut up.
I am no stranger to such suits. I was sued in this fashion by Medifast Inc. (aka Take Shape for Life) in 2010, and it took over five years for me to be dismissed, have the dismissal affirmed, and have the court order Medifast to pay my attorneys’ fees. The whole point of the Medifast lawsuit was to make me stop saying unflattering things about the company. And to scare anyone else who might dare to say bad things about the company…. the cost of litigation is tremendous, and companies like Medifast use the threat of litigation to shut up their critics.
Anti-SLAPP legislation generally gives the defendants in such lawsuits a better chance of ending the litigation early so they aren’t bankrupted by attorneys fees. The plaintiffs are made to show that they have a probability of winning the case. If they don’t, the suit is tossed and the defendant is spared the time and expense of protracted litigation.
Steve Wynn (yes, the casino dude) is trying to weaken Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law. You see, Wynn likes to sue people for defamation. Sometimes he wins. And other times he loses (and in this case, he lost under California’s anti-SLAPP statute). Since Wynn has more money than God, I suppose he would love it if the anti-SLAPP protections weren’t there for the people Wynn sues…. because he can outspend them in litigation. Of course, Wynn’s lobbyist Todd Mason says they want to “improve” the law.
S.B. 444 was approved by the Nevada Senate on April 15 and is going to be considered by the Nevada Assembly Judiciary Committee on Friday. Marc Randazza, a First Amendment attorney who was instrumental in getting the law enacted in the first place, sums up what S.B. 444 will do to the anti-SLAPP law:
It creates a Rube Goldberg mechanism for bringing an Anti-SLAPP motion — which will clearly increase the cost of litigation.
It narrows the definition of “issue of public concern” – so consumer reviews, social commentary, and other forms of important public speech are now outside of its protection.
It weakens the attorneys’ fees provisions of the existing law.
It lowers the burden for unethical plaintiffs to keep their SLAPP suits alive.
It repeals important provisions that seek to deter plaintiffs from filing anti-SLAPP suits in the first place.
It is tailor-made to ensure that public figures do not have to be worried about New York Times v. Sullivan at the SLAPP stage, anyhow.
It virtually ensures that you can’t ever bring an Anti-SLAPP motion in federal court.
What can you do if you’re in favor of keeping the strong anti-SLAPP law in Nevada? Let your voice be heard here.