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TAB Joins Media Coalition Arguing Texas Anti-SLAPP Law Should Apply in Federal Court

The Texas Association of Broadcasters is one of 39 media organizations that have joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in an amicus brief in support of the Texas anti-SLAPP law and its application in federal cases.

TAB, the Texas Press Association, and the FOI Foundation of Texas championed the Texas Citizens Participation Act before the Texas Legislature.  It became law on June 17, 2011 and was amended in 2013.  SLAPP stands for strategic lawsuit against public participation.

One example of such cases is when a wealthy individual or entity files a lawsuit against someone who has been critical of them.  It is a tactical move meant to silence the critical party by making it too expensive to defend their criticism in court.  Newsrooms have been drawn into such suits simply by reporting on the criticism.

The anti-SLAPP law makes it easier for news organizations to be dismissed from such frivolous lawsuits and has saved Texas newsrooms hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal defense costs.  A key provision of the law has allowed some courts to require that plaintiffs reimburse defendants’ legal costs.

TAB Associate Member law firm Vinson Elkins filed the amicus brief on behalf of the RCFP, TAB and others in Rudkin v. Roger Beasley Imports, Inc., a case before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.  The coalition is urging the federal appeals court to hold that the Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA) applies in federal court cases.

The RCFP’s brief argues that the Texas anti-SLAPP statute should apply in federal court because "the application of state anti-SLAPP statutes in federal courts fosters and protects the exercise of First Amendment freedoms, including by members of the news media."

Without the application of the state statute, the brief notes, reporting will be chilled as "many journalists and news organizations may choose to remain silent rather than run the risk of protracted federal court litigation."

There is a mixed record in other federal appeals courts on the issue of application of the state law in a federal case.  The RCFP reports that the First and Ninth Circuits have found that state anti-SLAPP laws do apply to state claims in federal court, while the Tenth and D.C. Circuits have found that they don’t.  The U.S. Supreme Court has not heard a case involving the issue yet, but has been petitioned to consider one.

Questions?  Contact TAB's Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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