senate Bill S7280

2013-2014 Legislative Session

Requires awarding of costs and attorney fees in frivolous action involving public petition and participation

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Archive: Last Bill Status - In Committee


  • Introduced
  • In Committee
  • On Floor Calendar
    • Passed Senate
    • Passed Assembly
  • Delivered to Governor
  • Signed/Vetoed by Governor

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Actions

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Assembly Actions - Lowercase
Senate Actions - UPPERCASE
Jun 20, 2014 committed to rules
Jun 03, 2014 advanced to third reading
Jun 02, 2014 2nd report cal.
May 29, 2014 1st report cal.1053
May 09, 2014 referred to codes

Votes

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May 29, 2014 - Codes committee Vote

S7280
14
1
committee
14
Aye
1
Nay
1
Aye with Reservations
0
Absent
0
Excused
0
Abstained
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Codes Committee Vote: May 29, 2014

nay (1)
aye wr (1)

Co-Sponsors

S7280 - Bill Details

See Assembly Version of this Bill:
A856
Current Committee:
Law Section:
Civil Rights Law
Laws Affected:
Amd ยงยง70-a & 76-a, Civ Rts L
Versions Introduced in 2011-2012 Legislative Session:
A10594

S7280 - Bill Texts

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Requires awarding of costs and attorney fees in frivolous action involving public petition and participation; expands application of actions involving public petition and participation.

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BILL NUMBER:S7280

TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the civil rights law, in relation to
actions involving public petition and participation

PURPOSE OF BILL: The purpose of this bill is to extend the protection
of New York's current law regarding Strategic Lawsuits Against Public
Participation ("SLAPP suits"). The amendment will protect citizens'
from frivolous litigation that is intended to silence their exercise
of the rights of free speech and petition about matters of public
concern.

SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS OF BILL:

Section 1 of the bill would amend section 76-a of the Civil Rights Law
to define an "action involving public petition and participation" to
include a claim related to:

i. Any communication in a place open to the public or a public forum
in connection with an issue of public concern; or

ii.Any other lawful conduct in furtherance of the exercise of the
constitutional right of free speech in connection with an issue of
public concern, or in furtherance of the exercise of the
constitutional right of petition.

Section 2 of the bill would amend section 70-a of the Civil Rights
Laws to provide that costs and attorney's fees "shall be recovered
upon a demonstration that a SLAP? suit was commenced or continued
without a substantial basis in fact or law and could not be supported
by a substantial argument for the extension, modification, or reversal
of existing law."

JUSTIFICATION:

Section 76-a of the Civil Rights Law was originally enacted by the
Legislature to provide "the utmost protection for the free exercise or
speech, petition, and association rights, particularly where such
rights are exercised in a public forum with respect to issues of
public concern." L. 1992 Ch. 767. However, as drafted, and as narrowly
interpreted by the courts, the application of Section 76-a has failed
to accomplish that objective. In practice, the current statute has
been strictly limited to cases initiated by persons or business
entities that are embroiled in controversies over a public application
or permit, usually in a real estate development situation. Meanwhile,
many frivolous lawsuits are filed each year that are calculated solely
to silence free speech and public participation, which do not
specifically arise in the context of the public "permit" process. By
revising the definition of an "action involving public petition and
participation," this amendment to Section 76-a will better advance the
purposes that the Legislature originally identified in enacting New
York's anti-SLAPP law.

Additionally, the principal remedy currently provided to victims of
SLAPP suits in New York is almost never actually imposed. The courts
have failed to use their discretionary power to award costs and
attorney's fees to a defendant found to have been victimized by a


frivolous lawsuit intended only to chill free speech. By an award of
costs and fees, the Legislature had originally intended to address
"threat of personal damages and litigation costs ... as a means of
harassing, intimidating, or punishing individuals, unincorporated
associations, not-for-profit corporations and others who have involved
themselves in public affairs." L. 1992 Ch. 767. This amendment to
Section 70-A of the Civil Rights Law makes clear that a court "shall"
impose an award of costs and fees, but only if the court finds that
the case has been initiated or pursued in bad faith. Together, the
two amendments will protect citizens against the threat -- and
financial reality -- of abusive litigation, but will not discourage
meritorious litigation.

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2012: A.10594 A. Judi

FISCAL IMPLICATIONS FOR STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS: None.

EFFECTIVE DATE: Immediately.

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                    S T A T E   O F   N E W   Y O R K
________________________________________________________________________

                                  7280

                            I N  S E N A T E

                               May 9, 2014
                               ___________

Introduced by Sen. ESPAILLAT -- read twice and ordered printed, and when
  printed to be committed to the Committee on Codes

AN  ACT  to amend the civil rights law, in relation to actions involving
  public petition and participation

  THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND  ASSEM-
BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

  Section 1. Paragraph (a) of subdivision 1 of section 70-a of the civil
rights  law,  as added by chapter 767 of the laws of 1992, is amended to
read as follows:
  (a) costs and attorney's fees [may] SHALL be recovered upon  a  demon-
stration,  INCLUDING AN ADJUDICATION PURSUANT TO SUBDIVISION (G) OF RULE
THIRTY-TWO HUNDRED ELEVEN OR SUBDIVISION (H) OF RULE THIRTY-TWO  HUNDRED
TWELVE  OF  THE  CIVIL PRACTICE LAW AND RULES, that the action involving
public petition and participation was commenced or continued  without  a
substantial  basis  in  fact  and  law  and  could not be supported by a
substantial argument for the  extension,  modification  or  reversal  of
existing law;
  S  2.  Subdivision 1 of section 76-a of the civil rights law, as added
by chapter 767 of the laws of 1992, is amended to read as follows:
  1. For purposes of this section:
  (a) An "action involving public petition  and  participation"  is  [an
action,]  A  claim[,  cross  claim  or  counterclaim for damages that is
brought by a public applicant or permittee, and is materially related to
any efforts of the defendant to report on, comment on,  rule  on,  chal-
lenge or oppose such application or permission] BASED UPON:
  (1)  ANY COMMUNICATION IN A PLACE OPEN TO THE PUBLIC OR A PUBLIC FORUM
IN CONNECTION WITH AN ISSUE OF PUBLIC CONCERN; OR
  (2) ANY OTHER LAWFUL CONDUCT IN FURTHERANCE OF  THE  EXERCISE  OF  THE
CONSTITUTIONAL  RIGHT  OF  FREE  SPEECH  IN  CONNECTION WITH AN ISSUE OF
PUBLIC CONCERN, OR IN FURTHERANCE OF THE EXERCISE OF THE  CONSTITUTIONAL
RIGHT OF PETITION.
  (b)  ["Public  applicant  or  permittee" shall mean any person who has
applied for or obtained a permit, zoning change, lease, license, certif-
icate or other entitlement for use or permission to act from any govern-

 EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                      [ ] is old law to be omitted.
                                                           LBD03691-01-3

S. 7280                             2

ment body, or any person with an  interest,  connection  or  affiliation
with  such  person  that  is  materially  related to such application or
permission] "CLAIM" INCLUDES ANY LAWSUIT, CAUSE OF ACTION,  CROSS-CLAIM,
COUNTERCLAIM, OR OTHER JUDICIAL PLEADING OR FILING REQUESTING RELIEF.
  (c)  "Communication"  shall mean any statement, claim, allegation in a
proceeding, decision, protest, writing, argument,  contention  or  other
expression.
  [(d)  "Government  body"  shall  mean any municipality, the state, any
other political subdivision or agency of such, the  federal  government,
any  public  benefit  corporation,  or  any  public authority, board, or
commission.]
  S 3. This act shall take effect immediately and shall apply to actions
commenced on or after such date.

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