CS for SB 1312                             First Engrossed (ntc)
    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 in Florida of Florida’s citizens to exercise the their
   20  rights of free speech in connection with public issues, and the
   21  rights to peacefully assemble, instruct their representatives,
   22  and 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 persons individuals to exercise such constitutional
   33  rights of free speech in connection with public issues
   34  participate in the state’s institutions of government.
   35  Therefore, the Legislature finds and declares that prohibiting
   36  such lawsuits as herein described by governmental entities will
   37  preserve this fundamental state policy, preserve the
   38  constitutional rights of persons in Florida citizens, and assure
   39  the continuation of representative government in this state. It
   40  is the intent of the Legislature that such lawsuits be
   41  expeditiously disposed of by the courts.
   42         (2)(3) As used in this section, the phrase or term:
   43         (a) “Free speech in connection with public issues” means
   44  any written or oral statement that is protected under applicable
   45  law and is made before a governmental entity in connection with
   46  an issue under consideration or review by a governmental entity,
   47  or is made in or in connection with a play, movie, television
   48  program, radio broadcast, audiovisual work, book, magazine
   49  article, musical work, news report, or other similar work.
   50         (b) “Governmental entity” or “government entity” means the
   51  state, including the executive, legislative, and the judicial
   52  branches of government and the independent establishments of the
   53  state, counties, municipalities, corporations primarily acting
   54  as instrumentalities of the state, counties, or municipalities,
   55  districts, authorities, boards, commissions, or any agencies
   56  thereof.
   57         (3)(4)A person or No governmental entity in this state may
   58  not shall file or cause to be filed, through its employees or
   59  agents, any lawsuit, cause of action, claim, cross-claim, or
   60  counterclaim against another a person or entity without merit
   61  and primarily solely because such person or entity has exercised
   62  the constitutional right of free speech in connection with a
   63  public issue, or right to peacefully assemble, the right to
   64  instruct representatives of government, or and the right to
   65  petition for redress of grievances before the various
   66  governmental entities of this state, as protected by the First
   67  Amendment to the United States Constitution and s. 5, Art. I of
   68  the State Constitution.
   69         (4)(5) A person or entity sued by a governmental entity or
   70  another person in violation of this section has a right to an
   71  expeditious resolution of a claim that the suit is in violation
   72  of this section. A person or entity may move petition the court
   73  for an order dismissing the action or granting final judgment in
   74  favor of that person or entity. The person or entity petitioner
   75  may file a motion for summary judgment, together with
   76  supplemental affidavits, seeking a determination that the
   77  claimant’s or governmental entity’s lawsuit has been brought in
   78  violation of this section. The claimant or governmental entity
   79  shall thereafter file a its response and any supplemental
   80  affidavits. As soon as practicable, the court shall set a
   81  hearing on the petitioner’s motion, which shall be held at the
   82  earliest possible time after the filing of the claimant’s or
   83  governmental entity’s response. The court may award, subject to
   84  the limitations in s. 768.28, the party sued by a governmental
   85  entity actual damages arising from a the governmental entity’s
   86  violation of this section act. The court shall award the
   87  prevailing party reasonable attorney attorney’s fees and costs
   88  incurred in connection with a claim that an action was filed in
   89  violation of this section.
   90         (5)(6) In any case filed by a governmental entity which is
   91  found by a court to be in violation of this section, the
   92  governmental entity shall report such finding and provide a copy
   93  of the court’s order to the Attorney General no later than 30
   94  days after such order is final. The Attorney General shall
   95  report any violation of this section by a governmental entity to
   96  the Cabinet, the President of the Senate, and the Speaker of the
   97  House of Representatives. A copy of such report shall be
   98  provided to the affected governmental entity.
   99         Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2015.