OLR Bill Analysis

sSB 981 (File 675, as amended by Senate "A")*



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 municipality 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;

5. create a private right of action; or

6. apply to a common law or statutory claim for bodily injury or wrongful death, except for claims for (a) emotional distress unrelated to such injury or death or joined with a cause of action other than for such injury or death or (b) defamation, libel, or slander. These provisions do not prohibit a plaintiff who brings a claim for bodily injury or wrongful death from filing a special motion to dismiss a counterclaim.

*Senate Amendment “A” (1) delays the bill's effective date by three months, (2) expands the bill's definition of “matter of public concern” to include issues related to an audiovisual work, (3) shortens the timeframe for filing a special motion to dismiss and lengthens the timeframe in which the court must hold a hearing after the motion is filed, (4) modifies the circumstances in which the court may grant or deny the special motion, and (5) adds the exceptions regarding bodily injury and wrongful death claims.

EFFECTIVE DATE: January 1, 2018 and applicable to any civil action filed on or after that date.


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; (d) a public official or figure; or (e) an audiovisual work;

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.



Under the bill, any party filing a special motion to dismiss must do so within 30 days of the date the complaint was returned or the counterclaim or cross claim was filed. The court may extend this deadline if the party seeking the motion shows good cause.


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 60 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 60-day period; or

3. the court ordered specified and limited discovery, in which case the hearing must be held within 60 days after the discovery must be completed.


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 that there is probable cause, considering all valid defenses, that the opposing party will prevail.

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.


Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute