Colorado recently became the 31ststate to enact an Anti-SLAPP law. The Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuits against public participation) law is meant to quickly end lawsuits brought against people that exercise their 1stAmendment right to free speech. SLAPP lawsuits are used to intimidate someone into keeping quiet even though the plaintiff knows they can’t win the lawsuit. The goal of a SLAPP lawsuit is accomplished when the defendant backs down in the face of a lawsuit and mounting legal costs. Usually, SLAPP lawsuits take the form of a claim for defamation or libel.
Colorado’s Anti-SLAPP law, C.R.S.§13-20-1101, allows a defendant faced with what appears to be a SLAPP lawsuit to file an immediate special motion to dismiss within 63-days of service of the complaint. The court must schedule the motion for a hearing within 28-days. All discovery is stayed during the pendency of the motion and either party may take an immediate appeal of the court’s decision.
If the court grants the special motion to dismiss, the defendant is entitled to reimbursement of their attorney’s fees and costs.
Colorado’s law does not include what is commonly referred to as a “slap-back” provision. California has enacted such a provision which allows a defendant to file a separate lawsuit for bringing the SLAPP lawsuit. This is essentially a lawsuit for malicious prosecution and allows for a jury to determine the damages awardable.
The Anti-SLAPP law signed into law in Colorado is a powerful defense to guarantee the freedom to speak up for issues that are important. The law provides an expeditious way to bring the issue before a judge and significant penalties for filing an Anti-SLAPP lawsuit in Colorado.