Connecticut Supreme Court bench
Rep. William Tong Kyle Constable /

The House of Representatives unanimously approved and sent to the governor’s desk Monday a bill to enable defendants who are exercising First Amendment rights to more easily seek dismissal of some lawsuits intended to silence them.

“It’s a bill to protect people against ‘libel bullies,’” said Rep. William Tong, D-Stamford.

The lawsuits receiving scrutiny are known as strategic litigation against public participation, or SLAPP lawsuits. They are lawsuits used to silence or intimidate dissenting free speech or the right to free association or to petition the government.

The bill’s proponents say current law leaves defendants with little choice but to fight these cases, which tend to drag on in court and can be costly.

Connecticut is one of 22 states that have not adopted anti-SLAPP laws. The bill passed the Senate unanimously last week.

This legislation allows a defendant to file a special motion to dismiss the suit on the grounds that it is frivolous and solely intended to cause an unnecessary delay.

If a judge finds a case to meet these standards, the case would be dismissed and the prosecution would be required to pay the defendant’s costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.

Defendants would not be able to use this motion in lawsuits claiming bodily injury or wrongful death.

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