OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 981

AN ACT CONCERNING STRATEGIC LITIGATION AGAINST PUBLIC PARTICIPATION AND A SPECIAL MOTION TO DISMISS.

SUMMARY

This bill enables a party in a civil action to file a special motion to dismiss a claim, counterclaim, or cross claim that is based on the party, in connection with a matter of public concern, exercising its right (1) of free speech, (2) to petition the government, or (3) of association. With limited exceptions, the court must stay discovery upon receiving such a motion and provide an expedited hearing on it. The court must also issue a ruling as soon as practicable.

The bill requires the court to award costs and reasonable attorney's fees to the (1) moving party, including costs and fees related to the filing, if it grants the motion and (2) opposing party if it denies the motion and finds it frivolous and solely intended to cause unnecessary delay.

The bill does not:

1. apply to an enforcement action the attorney general brings in the name of the state or one of its subdivisions (e.g., a city or borough);

2. affect or limit the court's authority to award sanctions, costs, attorney's fees, or any other relief available under any statute, court rule, or other authority;

3. affect, limit, or preclude the right of the party filing the motion to any defense, remedy, immunity, or privilege otherwise authorized by law;

4. affect the substantive law governing any asserted claim; or

5. create a private right of action.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017 and applicable to any civil action filed on or after that date.

DEFINITIONS

For the bill's purposes:

1. “matters of public concern” include issues related to (a) health or safety; (b) environmental, economic, or community well-being; (c) government, zoning, and other regulatory matters; or a (d) public official or figure;

2. “right of free speech” means communicating, or conduct furthering communication, in a public forum on a matter of public concern;

3. “right to petition the government” means communication (a) in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a government body or (b) that is reasonably likely to encourage consideration or review of a matter of public concern by such an entity or (c) that is reasonably likely to enlist public participation in an effort to cause such an entity to consider an issue; and

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

SPECIAL MOTION TO DISMISS

Filing

Under the bill, any party filing a special motion to dismiss must do so within 60 days of the date the complaint, counterclaim, or cross claim was served. The court may extend this deadline if the party seeking the motion shows good cause.

Discovery

The court must stay all discovery when the motion is filed and the stay remains in effect until the court grants or denies the motion and any interlocutory appeal. But it may order specified and limited discovery upon (1) its own motion or (2) a party's motion and a showing of good cause.

Expedited Hearing

The court must conduct an expedited hearing on a special motion to dismiss. The hearing must be held within 30 days after the motion is filed unless:

1. the parties agree to a later hearing date;

2. the court, for good cause shown, is unable to schedule the hearing during the 30-day period; or

3. the court ordered specified and limited discovery, in which case the hearing must be held within 30 days after the discovery must be completed.

Ruling

When ruling on a special motion to dismiss, the court must consider the parties' pleadings and supporting and opposing affidavits attesting to the facts upon which the liability or defense is based.

The court must grant such a motion if the moving party makes an initial showing, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the opposing party's complaint, counterclaim, or cross claim is based on the moving party, in connection with a matter of public concern, exercising its right under the state or U.S. Constitution (1) to free speech, (2) to petition the government, or (3) of association. But the court is not required to grant the motion if the opposing party (1) sets forth with particularity the circumstances that gave rise to the complaint, counterclaim, or cross claim and (2) demonstrates to the court, by a preponderance of the evidence, a probability of prevailing on the merits.

The court must also grant such a motion if the moving party establishes each element of a valid defense to the complaint, counterclaim, or cross claim.

Under the bill, the court's findings and determinations on the motion are not admissible as evidence at any later stage of the proceeding or in a subsequent action.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

39

Nay

0

(03/31/2017)