Friday, October 24, 2014

NJ Assembly: DO it CALIFORNIA-Style


Correct me if I'm wrong: the United States Constitution was written and ratified in Philadelphia, (east coast)- not Malibu (west coast).

Which means, the world’s longest surviving written charter of government, the US Constitution,   ratified in 1788, that burst out of the gate with these three words: "We the People..." was birthed here (east coast) not there (west coast). 

And three years later in 1791, the Bill of Rights- the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution- were ratified by the state of Virginia (east coast).  Amendment Numero Uno, GA's personal favortie, is this one:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
How great is it that?  The bedrock of American democracy, freedom of speech and religion, was birthed HERE, geographically speaking.

Wait... it gets even better.

GA is a born-and-raised New York City gal, but New Jersey is my home, and it's probably yours, too.  So,  you will be thankful  to hear that New Jersey, of any state, has among the highest protections for speech, in particular, political speech, even greater than those in the U.S.Constitution.  It's true!

Don't believe me? From a recent Hudson County Superior Court ruling:
New Jersey has particularly high regard for the protection of speech, as our State’s Supreme Court has found that New Jersey’s Constitution offers protections “more sweeping in scope than the language of the First Amendment, has supported broader free speech rights than its federal counterpart.” Sisler v. Gannett Co., 104 N.J. 256, 271 (1986). Indeed, our Supreme Court, through rulings, and our Legislature, through lawmaking, “have stressed the vigor with which New Jersey fosters and nurtures speech on matters of public concern. Id. Furthermore, political speech “lies at the core of our constitutional free speech protections.” Mazdabrook Commons Homeowners' Ass'n v. Khan, 210 N.J. 482, 499 (2012)(internal citation and quotation omitted).
Okay, so now that we are reminded of the (geographical) source of  our most fundamental freedom, freedom of speech- HERE, and in particular NEW JERSEY, GA asks:

WHY aren't citizens protected from SLAPP suits HERE (NJ), like they do THERE (CA)?

The almost-good news is that New Jersey, currently one of the states with ZERO  anti-SLAPP legislation, is finally waking up to the need for it.

MSV reported yesterday:
On October 9th, the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed a bill that will provide a measure of relief to defendants and make well-funded entities think twice about filing a SLAPP.  Bill A3505 assesses a $10,000 fine for SLAPP suits brought in bad faith and creates a process for a defendant to obtain quick dismissal and recover his or her costs.
$10,000 fine?  Are they KIDDING?  

Yeah, a $10,000 fine to a wealthy SLAPP underwriter, who can afford to 5 or 6 or 7 figure litigation costs is MEANINGLESS. A slap on the wrist would hurt more.  Sorry, back to the drawing board.  Bill A3505  slaps the SLAPPers with a feather. 

NJ Legislators, humble yourselves and look west.  California knows HOW to SLAP the SLAPPers with powerful and effective legislation. Take a look at THESE statutes among others posted on the California Anti-SLAPP Project web site:

Code of Civil Procedure section 425.16
California’s anti-SLAPP statute provides for a special motion to strike a complaint where the complaint arises from activity exercising the rights of petition and free speech. The statute was first enacted in 1992.

Code of Civil Procedure section 425.18
This statute was enacted primarily to facilitate the recovery by SLAPP victims of their damages through a SLAPPback (malicious prosecution action) against the SLAPP filers and their attorneys after the underlying SLAPP has been dismissed. It provides that the prevailing defendant attorney fee and immediate appeal provisions of the anti-SLAPP law do not apply to SLAPPbacks, and that an anti-SLAPP motion may not be filed against a SLAPPback by a party whose filing or maintenance of the prior cause of action from which the SLAPPback arises was illegal as a matter of law.


How hard would it be to copy those statutes from THERE to  HERE?  Really, just copy-paste.  

It is an absolute DISGRACE that New Jersey is not BETTER protecting it's citizens from frivolous lawsuits designed to chill free speech, like online political discourse, when our own State Constitution elevates free speech protections above those of the U.S. Constitution.  

 Maybe SLAPP victims will have to lobby the state for better legislation.   Here are some folks to contact, to ask for California-style Anti-SLAPP legislation:  

Senator Brian Stack - (201) 721-5263 Email: SenStack@njleg.org
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji- 
(201) 714-4960 Email: AsmMukherji@njleg.org

 (Courtesy of horae on MSV)

Assemblyman
Jon M. Bramnick (R)
(Republican Leader)

DISTRICT OFFICE ADDRESS:
251 North Ave. West
2nd Floor
Westfield, NJ 07090
PHONE NUMBER 908) 232-2073

Senator
Stephen M. Sweeney (D)
(Senate President)

DISTRICT OFFICE ADDRESSES:
935 Kings Highway
Suite 400
West Deptford, NJ 08086

199 East Broadway
1st Floor
Suite G
Salem, NJ 08079
PHONE NUMBERS 856) 251-9801 (West Deptford)
(856) 339-0808 (Salem)

ELECTRONIC MAIL:Contact Your Legislator(s)

3 comments:

  1. Pretty simple really. The Founding Fathers were a same-sex union. Many states refuse to recognize the birth rights of their children.

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  2. On MSV, there is a link to the NJ Foundation for Open Government. NJFOG's website has bio's of their board members, including Beth Mason''s poorly written work of fiction where she describes herself as an "executive". Why would they want her on their board and apart from clogging the courts with her frivolous lawsuits, what exactly has she ever done as a 2nd ward councilman, the only elected position she has ever held, soon to be over?

    ReplyDelete