Florida Senate - 2015                                    SB 1312
       By Senator Simmons
       10-00699B-15                                          20151312__
    1                        A bill to be entitled                      
    2         An act relating to strategic lawsuits against public
    3         participation; amending s. 768.295, F.S.; removing a
    4         short title; providing that legislative intent
    5         includes the protection of specified forms of free
    6         speech; defining the phrase “free speech in connection
    7         with public issues”; conforming provisions to changes
    8         made by the act; providing an effective date.
   10  Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
   12         Section 1. Section 768.295, Florida Statutes, is amended to
   13  read:
   14         768.295 Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation
   15  (SLAPP) suits by governmental entities prohibited.—
   16         (1) This section may be cited as the “Citizen Participation
   17  in Government Act.”
   18         (2) It is the intent of the Legislature to protect the
   19  right of Florida’s citizens to exercise their rights of free
   20  speech in connection with public issues, and their rights to
   21  peacefully assemble, instruct their representatives, and
   22  petition for redress of grievances before the various
   23  governmental entities of this state as protected by the First
   24  Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of
   25  the State Constitution. The Legislature recognizes that
   26  “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation” or “SLAPP”
   27  suits, as they are typically called, have increased over the
   28  last 30 years and are mostly filed by private industry and
   29  individuals. However, It is the public policy of this state that
   30  a person or governmental entity government entities not engage
   31  in SLAPP suits because such actions are inconsistent with the
   32  right of individuals to exercise their constitutional rights of
   33  free speech in connection with public issues participate in the
   34  state’s institutions of government. Therefore, the Legislature
   35  finds and declares that prohibiting such lawsuits as herein
   36  described by governmental entities will preserve this
   37  fundamental state policy, preserve the constitutional rights of
   38  Florida citizens, and assure the continuation of representative
   39  government in this state. It is the intent of the Legislature
   40  that such lawsuits be expeditiously disposed of by the courts.
   41         (2)(3) As used in this section, the phrase or term:
   42         (a) “Free speech in connection with public issues” means
   43  any written or oral statement that is protected under applicable
   44  law and made before a governmental entity in connection with an
   45  issue under consideration or review by a governmental entity, or
   46  in connection with the publication of a play, movie broadcast,
   47  or other similar work of art.
   48         (b) “Governmental entity” or “government entity” means the
   49  state, including the executive, legislative, and the judicial
   50  branches of government and the independent establishments of the
   51  state, counties, municipalities, corporations primarily acting
   52  as instrumentalities of the state, counties, or municipalities,
   53  districts, authorities, boards, commissions, or any agencies
   54  thereof.
   55         (3)(4)A person or No governmental entity in this state may
   56  not shall file or cause to be filed, through its employees or
   57  agents, any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, or
   58  counterclaim against another a person or entity without merit
   59  and solely because such person or entity has exercised the
   60  constitutional right of free speech in connection with a public
   61  issue, or right to peacefully assemble, the right to instruct
   62  representatives of government, or and the right to petition for
   63  redress of grievances before the various governmental entities
   64  of this state, as protected by the First Amendment to the United
   65  States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of the State Constitution.
   66         (4)(5) A person or entity sued by a governmental entity or
   67  another person in violation of this section has a right to an
   68  expeditious resolution of a claim that the suit is in violation
   69  of this section. A person or entity may move petition the court
   70  for an order dismissing the action or granting final judgment in
   71  favor of that person or entity. The person or entity petitioner
   72  may file a motion for summary judgment, together with
   73  supplemental affidavits, seeking a determination that the
   74  claimant’s or governmental entity’s lawsuit has been brought in
   75  violation of this section. The claimant or governmental entity
   76  shall thereafter file a its response and any supplemental
   77  affidavits. As soon as practicable, the court shall set a
   78  hearing on the petitioner’s motion, which shall be held at the
   79  earliest possible time after the filing of the claimant’s or
   80  governmental entity’s response. The court may award, subject to
   81  the limitations in s. 768.28, the party sued by a governmental
   82  entity or person actual damages arising from the governmental
   83  entity’s or person’s violation of this section act. The court
   84  shall award the prevailing party reasonable attorney’s fees and
   85  costs incurred in connection with a claim that an action was
   86  filed in violation of this section.
   87         (5)(6) In any case filed by a governmental entity which is
   88  found by a court to be in violation of this section, the
   89  governmental entity shall report such finding and provide a copy
   90  of the court’s order to the Attorney General no later than 30
   91  days after such order is final. The Attorney General shall
   92  report any violation of this section by a governmental entity to
   93  the Cabinet, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the
   94  House of Representatives. A copy of such report shall be
   95  provided to the affected governmental entity.
   96         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.