Congressman Cohen Introduces the Citizen Participation Act

July 24, 2020
Press Release
Would prevent court system’s use to limit free speech

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today introduced the Citizen Participation Act, which would make it easier to dismiss frivolous lawsuits brought to intimidate individuals because of their speech.

The Citizens Participation Act would help to stop Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPP) actions.  In many cases, plaintiffs file SLAPP suits not to win but to intimidate critics and drive up the cost of disliked or embarrassing speech. Rather than being used to protect freedom of speech or expression, these frivolous actions are intended to use the courts to silence speech. While 30 states have implemented their own anti-SLAPP statues, a federal policy is necessary. Americans across the country are expressing their concerns and demanding policy changes so their voices can be heard. 

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“I first introduced this federal anti-SLAPP bill in 2009, but recent events have further demonstrated its importance. Some public officials, including members of the House, have tried to use defamation suits to silence critics and satirists.

“The court system must not be a tool wielded by the powerful against the free speech of individuals. Freedom of Speech is a core principle of our democracy, and we must protect it.”  

Over the years, organizations including the Alliance for Justice, the Center for Competitive Politics, the Government Accountability Project, the NAACP, and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) have all endorsed this legislation.