Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (also known as “SLAPP” suits) are lawsuits filed simply to deter, chill, censor or harass people who have spoken or want to speak their minds. Though the term was first coined in the 1980s, SLAPP suits have been around as long as people have been communicating – or at least as long as the legal system has been used as a means for settling disputes over that communication. However, the impact of SLAPP suits has never been greater. With the Internet, everyone is a journalist or a columnist or a critic. But not everybody likes what is being said about them, and there are few barriers to filing a lawsuit when you think you’ve been wronged. The simple act of filing that suit has immediate and far reaching impact: the speaker, even if victorious, must spend time, money and other resources defending himself or herself in court; he or she may be deterred from speaking again in the future; others may be chilled from speaking as well.
In response, several states have passed “Anti-SLAPP” laws. These laws are designed to level the playing field for those speaking out on matters of public concern. Approximately 30 states and the District of Columbia have passed Anti-SLAPP laws, though there is a wide variation in their strength. These laws can not only accelerate the dismissal of a SLAPP lawsuit, thus saving a victorious defendant significant time and money (and stress), some also reimburse those defendants for attorney’s fees and court costs. Anti-SLAPP laws also serve as a strong and valuable deterrent to the filing of a SLAPP lawsuit in the first instance, which saves valuable public resources. At present, however, there is no federal Anti-SLAPP law, although several iterations, including the “Speak Free Act” (HR 2304 in the 114th Congress) have been introduced in recent years.
This course is presented by Evan Mascagni, the Policy Director for the Public Participation Project and Kevin M. Goldberg, a member at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C, in Arlington, Virginia and a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Participation Project (the Public Participation Project is a 501(c)(4) organization dedicated to educating the public regarding SLAPPs and the consequences of these types of destructive lawsuits and to the passage of a federal Anti-SLAPP law). It reviews the history of SLAPP lawsuits and Anti-SLAPP laws passed in response, the recent and current status of Anti-SLAPP laws, and key lawsuits at the state level around the country. It examines the benefits of Anti-SLAPP laws and the best statutory language in existing laws to offer practical guidance in terms of identifying a SLAPP suit and possible use of an Anti-SLAPP law in defense. It also identifies the need for a federal Anti-SLAPP law and the legal considerations for and against the currently proposed Speak Free Act that are being debated in Congress.
Kevin M. Goldberg is a Member at Fletcher, Heald & Hildreth, P.L.C. He focuses on First Amendment, Freedom of Information Act, and intellectual property issues, particularly copyright and trademark matters encountered by content creators and users, with a particular eye toward threats affecting publication on the Internet and social media.
Kevin serves as both counselor to and advocate for several major press organizations including, among others, the American Society of News Editors and the Association of Alternative Newsmedia. He offers legal guidance on organizational matters such as corporate formation, drafting of bylaws and membership policies, and acquisition and compliance with non-profit tax status. Kevin is also experienced as an advocate before federal and state legislatures and executive agencies. He has had a hand in the drafting and passage of several major bills revising the federal Freedom of Information Act, similar state acts, state laws affecting defamation, copyright, and personal privacy. He has prepared or assisted in the preparation of testimony for members of client organizations testifying before the United States Congress and has himself testified regarding Freedom of Information Act implementation. Finally, Kevin conducts training sessions, including webinars, to provide additional value to the organization's members.
Kevin's interest in the First Amendment stems from an undergraduate major in Communications, with a focus on TV/Radio and Journalism, at James Madison University, an institution from which he graduated Magna Cum Laude in 1992. After graduation from James Madison, Kevin attended law school at George Washington University. He was graduated with high honors in 1995 and received the Imogene Williford award for as the outstanding constitutional law student in his graduating class. Kevin regularly extends this expertise beyond his clients. He was an adjunct professor at George Mason University for eight years, where he taught an upper-level course in Journalism Law. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia's Public Access Television Corporation, President of the Board of Directors of the District of Columbia Open Government Coalition, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the National Press Foundation, a member of the Board of Directors of the Public Participation Project, and was formerly the President of the Board of Directors the DC United Foundation (the charitable arm of the DC United soccer team), and Chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Media Law Resource Center. On March 16, 2006, Kevin was inducted into the National Freedom of Information Hall of Fame for his continued and superlative service in pursuit of open government. He is the youngest of the current 56 members in the Hall.
He has also written several articles on important media issues, is a regular speaker at local and national conferences and has appeared on major media such as MSNBC, NPR and Fox Television as a legal commentator. He has organized and presented workshops on newsgathering and publication issues as part of the "Speakers and Specialists" program for the United States Department of State at United States embassies worldwide, for national and international press freedom organizations such as the International Center for Journalists, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the American University's Washington College of Law, and the Newseum. He was also a member of the United States delegation to the International Telecommunications Union's Plenipotentiary Conference in Turkey in 2006.
Outside of the office, Kevin is an avid soccer player and golfer. He is a licensed soccer referee, having achieved the "State Referee" level attained by only three percent of all referees nationwide.
Evan Mascagni is the Policy Director of the Public Participation Project. Prior to moving to New York City, he was an attorney with the California Anti-SLAPP Project, a public interest law firm and policy organization dedicated to fighting SLAPPs in California. He graduated, summa cum laude, from the University of the District of Columbia, David A. Clarke School of Law, where he was Editor-in-Chief of the UDC Law Review.
Good presentation. Speakers were very knowledgeable
Great program, great presenters,
Speakers were humorous, subject matter interesting. I enjoyed the examples they provided.
i enjoyed the video they added to the presentation (informative & enjoyable) it made the presentation more than just the speakers and slides.
the only course i enjoyed the whole way through
Excellent presentation with excellent Excellent examples of unjust Slapp lawsuits- and the need for a Federal Anti-Slapp Law. Excellent and interesting presentation.
Good information. Easy to follow.
I had little awareness of this matter....so important!
Excellent course on this subject & interesting speakers.
Both instructors had an excellent command of the subject matter. I do not do a lot of work in this area and still found it to be a very interesting presentation.
Brilliant & fun!
Both of them are good speakers, and the course was well structured and informative.
Entertaining and informative - one of the best presentations I have seen.
Timely and well presented.
Great CLE! The presenters were obviously very passionate about the subject which made for a great lecture.
This was particularly good. Speakers were entertaining and held my interest.
Great job, guys!!!! Y'all were entertaining and informative !
The two presenters outlined this topic in a well-organized manner with lots of current examples. Good job.
This was one of the best CLE programs I've ever attended. Speakers were engaging, interesting, and kept my attention, the subject-matter was highly relevant/they gave great real-life examples, and overall very informative but accessible content. Great job!!!
speakers made this enjoyable
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