Huffman sponsoring bill against anti-free speech lawsuits

COLUMBUS — A Lima legislator is promoting legislation to guard against lawsuits that stifle free speech.

Ohio Senate

Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima: Huffman is sponsoring the Ohio Citizen Participation Act, which aims to protect people against so-called “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” or SLAPP lawsuits. According to a statement from Huffman’s office, a SLAPP lawsuit is “a meritless lawsuit against someone for exercising his or her First Amendment rights, rights that are also guaranteed to Ohio citizens under our state’s constitution.”

Such lawsuits, Huffman said, are not filed necessarily with the aim to win, but rather to cause someone a great deal of stress from a prolonged legal process and mounting bills. This bill, modeled after similar legislation in Texas, would allow a judge to dismiss meritless lawsuits against people engaging in “protected communication,” which encompasses all First Amendment-related speech on matters of public concern. The bill would also protect anonymous digital commenters who would face litigation, giving them the ability to contest efforts to expose their identities. This would, however, not change the state’s libel and defamation standards.

Participating in crafting the legislation were the Ohio News Media Association, the Ohio Association of Broadcasters, the Ohio Domestic Violence Network, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, Common Cause Ohio, the ACLU of Ohio, the Motion Picture Association of America, Yelp and multiple Ohio attorneys who have represented defamation defendants.

U.S. Senate

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio: On Monday, Portman praised President Donald Trump’s decision to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism. The recently enacted Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act required the State Department to inform Congress on whether North Korea met the criteria to be listed as a state sponsor of terrorism.

“I applaud President Trump’s decision to relist North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Portman said. “North Korea was removed from the list nearly a decade ago with promises from the regime to limit their nuclear program. That clearly hasn’t happened and they have continued their destabilizing actions in the region. Their long history of transferring weapons and technology to state-sponsors of terrorism like Iran and Syria, the assassination of a Kim family member on foreign soil, and the brutal treatment of Otto Warmbier, ultimately leading to his death, are only some recent examples of the evil nature of this regime.”

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Rob Portman, left, and Matt Huffman Portman, left, and Matt Huffman

By Craig Kelly

[email protected]

Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.