Connecticut Seal

General Assembly

File No. 675

    January Session, 2017

Substitute Senate Bill No. 981

Senate, April 20, 2017

The Committee on Judiciary reported through SEN. DOYLE of the 9th Dist. and SEN. KISSEL of the 7th Dist., Chairpersons of the Committee on the part of the Senate, that the substitute bill ought to pass.

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

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:

Section 1. (NEW) (Effective October 1, 2017, and applicable to any civil action filed on or after said date) (a) As used in this section:

(1) "Matter of public concern" means an issue related to (A) health or safety, (B) environmental, economic or community well-being, (C) the government, zoning and other regulatory matters, or (D) a public official or public 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 (A) communication in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, administrative, judicial or other governmental body, (B) communication that is reasonably likely to encourage consideration or review of a matter of public concern by a legislative, executive, administrative, judicial or other governmental body, or (C) communication that is reasonably likely to enlist public participation in an effort to effect consideration of an issue by a legislative, executive, administrative, judicial or other governmental body;

(4) "Right of association" means communication among individuals who join together to collectively express, promote, pursue or defend common interests; and

(5) "Special motion to dismiss" means the motion permitted pursuant to this section.

(b) In any civil action in which a party files a complaint, counterclaim or cross claim against an opposing party that is based on the opposing party's exercise of its right of free speech, right to petition the government, or right of association under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the state in connection with a matter of public concern, such opposing party may file a special motion to dismiss the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim.

(c) Any party filing a special motion to dismiss shall file such motion not later than sixty days after the date of service of the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim described in subsection (b) of this section. The court, upon a showing of good cause by a party seeking to file a special motion to dismiss, may extend the time to file a special motion to dismiss.

(d) The court shall stay all discovery upon the filing of a special motion to dismiss. The stay of discovery shall remain in effect until the court grants or denies the special motion to dismiss and any interlocutory appeal thereof. Notwithstanding the entry of an order to stay discovery, the court, upon motion of a party and a showing of good cause, or upon its own motion, may order specified and limited discovery relevant to the special motion to dismiss.

(e) (1) The court shall conduct an expedited hearing on a special motion to dismiss. The expedited hearing shall be held not later than thirty days after the date of filing of such special motion to dismiss, unless, (A) the court orders specified and limited discovery pursuant to subsection (d) of this section, in which case, the expedited hearing shall be held not later than thirty days after the date on which such specified and limited discovery must be completed, (B) the parties agree to a hearing date that is beyond the thirty-day period, or (C) the court, for good cause shown, is unable to schedule the hearing during the thirty-day period.

(2) When ruling on a special motion to dismiss, the court shall consider pleadings and supporting and opposing affidavits of the parties attesting to the facts upon which liability or a defense, as the case may be, is based.

(3) The court shall grant a special motion to dismiss 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's exercise of its right of free speech, right to petition the government, or right of association under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the state in connection with a matter of public concern, unless the party that brought the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim sets forth with particularity the circumstances giving rise to the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim and demonstrates to the court by a preponderance of the evidence, a probability of prevailing on the merits of the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim.

(4) Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision (3) of this subsection, the court shall grant a special motion to dismiss if the moving party establishes each element of a valid defense to the complaint, counterclaim or cross claim.

(5) The court shall rule on a special motion to dismiss as soon as practicable.

(f) (1) If the court grants a special motion to dismiss under this section, the court shall award the moving party costs and reasonable attorney's fees, including such costs and fees incurred in connection with the filing of the special motion to dismiss.

(2) If the court denies a special motion to dismiss under this section and finds that such special motion to dismiss is frivolous and solely intended to cause unnecessary delay, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney's fees to the party opposing such special motion to dismiss.

(g) The findings or determinations made pursuant to subsections (e) and (f) of this section shall not be admitted into evidence at any later stage of the proceeding or in any subsequent action.

(h) The provisions of this section shall not: (1) Apply to an enforcement action that is brought in the name of the state or a political subdivision of the state by the Attorney General; (2) affect or limit the authority of a court 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 a party filing a special motion to dismiss 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.

This act shall take effect as follows and shall amend the following sections:

Section 1

October 1, 2017, and applicable to any civil action filed on or after said date

New section

Statement of Legislative Commissioners:

In Section 1(e) "service" was changed to "filing" for accuracy and consistency.

JUD

Joint Favorable Subst.

 

The following Fiscal Impact Statement and Bill Analysis are prepared for the benefit of the members of the General Assembly, solely for purposes of information, summarization and explanation and do not represent the intent of the General Assembly or either chamber thereof for any purpose. In general, fiscal impacts are based upon a variety of informational sources, including the analyst's professional knowledge. Whenever applicable, agency data is consulted as part of the analysis, however final products do not necessarily reflect an assessment from any specific department.


OFA Fiscal Note

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

Explanation

The bill makes changes that only involve private parties in civil proceedings and does not result in a fiscal impact to the state or municipalities.

The Out Years

State Impact: None

Municipal Impact: None

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:

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

DEFINITIONS

For the bill's purposes:

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:

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.

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)

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