CARSON CITY, NV—Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed a bill approving revisions to Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute, improving protection for people who are sued for actions related to their exercise of free speech. Las Vegas First Amendment attorney Marc J. Randazza, managing partner of the Randazza Legal Group, spearheaded the bill, which, among other things, broadened the existing statute’s coverage.
Anti-SLAPP statutes deter frivolous or vexatious lawsuits, more commonly known as Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP). Plaintiffs in SLAPP suits file a complaint against a defendant in an effort to discourage the defendant’s exercise of his or her First Amendment rights. Typically, such lawsuits take the form of defamation or related claims. The purpose of the SLAPP suit is to force the defendant to abandon his or her efforts to speak out by making the costs of speaking lawfully too high to bear.
While Nevada already had an existing anti-SLAPP statute, Randazza realized after opening his Las Vegas office that it was anemic compared to similar statutes in other states, such as California and Oregon. The Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently held that Nevada’s current statute only protected communications made directly to a government agency. In contrast, California’s statute protects defendants in lawsuits filed by one private individual or corporation against another when the speech involves an issue of public concern. Because of how the previous statute was worded, the Ninth Circuit determined that there was no way to appeal a decision denying an anti-SLAPP motion. The result was a weaker statute that did not give Nevada victims of SLAPP suits many options to get out of litigation.
The bill the governor signed on June 3 contained a number of changes to broaden the statute’s protections. Most importantly, the bill expanded the scope of the statute to provide immunity from lawsuit (not just liability) to any person exercising free speech rights in relation to an issue of public concern. This means that plaintiffs who sue people exercising free speech rights involving a matter of public concern in an attempt to stifle that speech may have their cases dismissed entirely. If successful, the defendant can then ask the court to order the plaintiff to pay the defendant’s attorney fees, as well as additional damages of up to $10,000.
"The bill Gov. Sandoval signed ensures that Nevadans now truly have First Amendment rights," Randazza said. "A stronger anti-SLAPP statute means that fewer frivolous lawsuits will be filed in Nevada courts. People engaged in activities protected by free speech no longer have to worry about the threat of vexatious lawsuits. Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute is now on par with some of the most protective laws in the country."
Randazza Legal Group is a First Amendment, intellectual property, and Internet law firm with offices in Las Vegas and Miami. Randazza has represented a number of defamation defendants across the country.
Pictured, l-r: Marc J. Randazza and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval