The Texas Anti-SLAPP Law – What Is It & Why Should You Care?

Since November, 2011, Texas has been an anti-slapp state.

Why should you care?  Because the new law gives you a way to shortcut a lawsuit against you.  In some cases.  Sometimes.

The purpose of the law, stated succinctly in Section 2, is “to encourage and safeguard the constitutional rights of persons to petition, speak freely, associate freely, and otherwise participate in government…”

Thus, if you have been sued, you can file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit if the  lawsuit is based on, related to, or is in response to your exercise of the 1) right of free speech, 2) the right to petition, or 3) the right of association.  It covers all types of communications – oral or by document, in any type of medium.

The “right of association” means a communication between individuals who join together to collectively express, promise, pursue or defend common interests.

The “right of free speech” means a communication made in conenction with a matter of public concern, such as health or safety, environmental, or good, product or service in the marketplace.

The “right to petition” means anything done in the government context – judicial proceeding, executive hearing before a branch of federal or state government, open hearing, etc.

Note that the law doesn’t expand your rights, which are based on the federal and state constitutions.  It merely gives you a quick way to get rid of an unjust lawsuit.  If the Judge agrees with you and dismisses the lawsuit, then the Judge has to award you reasonable attorneys’ fees and court costs, and issue sanctions against the other party.

But wait – there’s a gotcha.  If the other side can prove its allegations, or if the judge finds you filed the motion frivolously, then he can award costs and fees against you.  The law doesn’t allow you to file a motion to dismiss in actions brought by the state, or to actions brought against a seller or lessor of goods or services, or to a legal action based on personal injury.

The law is found at Chapter 27 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code.