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SPJ supports anti-SLAPP statutes applying in federal court




June 10, 2016

Paul Fletcher, SPJ National President, 804-873-1893, pfletcher.spj@gmail.com
Jennifer Royer, SPJ Communications Strategist, 317-361-4134, jroyer@spj.org

INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional journalists today joins dozens of other news media organizations in filing an amicus brief in a defamation lawsuit between two doctors.

The case, Tobinick v. Novella, was brought by Dr. Edward Tobinick against Dr. Steven Novella after Novella posted articles to a medical blog disputing Tobinick’s claims about treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

The suit was brought in federal court in Florida, but the law of California applied, and the federal judge in Florida dismissed most of the suit under California’s Anti-Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) Act. This was an important development because it is not yet clearly established in all federal jurisdictions that state Anti-SLAPP statutes apply in federal courts.
The case is now on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press brief primarily urges the court to uphold the lower court’s finding that the Anti-SLAPP Act applies.

“This is an important issue because state anti-SLAPP statues are meant to guard against frivolous lawsuits against protected speech,” said Paul Fletcher, SPJ national president. “Plaintiffs should not be able to evade those safeguards merely by suing in federal court instead of state court.”

The First Amendment guarantees the press and the public a right of access to criminal trials, including pretrial proceedings, and documents submitted in connection with them. In its role as a free press and free speech advocate, SPJ initiates and joins amicus briefs to support First Amendment and open records cases.

SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to informing citizens; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and fights to protect First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. Support excellent journalism and fight for your right to know. Become a member, give to the Legal Defense Fund, or give to the Sigma Delta Chi Foundation.

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