|(International Commission of Jurists)|
Last June, Danielle Kurin, an archaeologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, sued me for defamation for my reporting on her documented misconduct.
Today, my attorneys have written to the federal judge overseeing the case, asking him to allow us to file an early motion for summary judgment--in other words, a motion that, if granted, would dismiss the case. Normally a motion for summary judgment would come after both sides of the litigation had completed legal discovery, the process by which litigants gather evidence--through depositions, document productions, and other means--that might help them win their cases. However, last November, New York governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law new "anti-SLAPP" legislation, which provides much stronger protections for those sued for defamation in situations where the public interest is involved. "SLAPP" stands for "Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation," an awkwardly worded phrase that simply means a lawsuit designed to shut someone up who is speaking publicly.
As my lawyers argue in their letter to the judge (see below), Kurin's litigation against me is, in essence, a SLAPP suit. The new legislation in New York (the state I reside in) is designed to protect journalists like me, and others exercising their First Amendment rights.
As my attorneys point out, New York's anti-SLAPP legislation has already been successfully invoked in federal court by the New York Times in its defense against a defamation suit filed by Sarah Palin. The coming months and years are sure to see numerous tests of the new law's protections, which will be very welcome to journalists and anyone else speaking out about social and political issues.
Update Jan 5, 2020: The judge has given Kurin's lawyers seven days to respond to our letter.
ORDER deferring ruling on  Letter Motion for Conference: By 1/12/21, plaintiff shall file a response to defendant's letter-motion. (HEREBY ORDERED by Judge Vincent L. Briccetti)(Text Only Order)
Update Jan 8: For those who like to learn on YouTube, John Oliver on SLAPP: