New York adopts strong anti-SLAPP statute

by Paul Alan Levy

With a signature last week from Governor Cuomo, New York has become the latest state to enact a strong anti-SLAPP law.   Addressing flaws that came to the fore in our recent defense of Richard Robbins, the new statute considerably broadens the scope of speech covered by anti-SLAPP protections, and, requires a stay of discovery upon the filing of an anti-SLAPP motion, provides for the consideration of affidavits as well as pleadings in assessing whether there is “a substantial basis in law” for actions directed at protected speech, and requires, rather than simply permitting, awards of attorney fees when an anti-SLAPP motion is granted.

Unlike the anti-SLAPP laws in most states with such broad coverage, the New York statute does not contain exceptions for lawsuits aimed at commercial speech, suits filed in the public interest, or suits filed on behalf of state or local governments. It remains to be seen whether such amendments prove to be needed to prevent the application of the statute to cases far removed from the sort of oppressive lawsuits at which the sponsors were aiming, as enactment of such exceptions proved necessary in California after its pioneering anti-SLAPP law was enacted without those safeguards.

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