Bizzarro bill to protect Pennsylvanians from baseless lawsuits passes State Senate

House Bill 1466 now goes to Gov. Shapiro's desk to be signed into law

After years of debate, a bill to protect Pennsylvanians from meritless lawsuits and preserve free speech is finally heading to the governor’s desk after receiving unanimous support in both chambers, state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro (D-Erie), the bill’s sponsor, announced Wednesday.

House Bill 1466 would help curtail Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation, or SLAPPS, which have been historically used against people or organizations that take a position on a matter of public interest to silence or deter them. Specifically, this bill would create a process to quickly dismiss SLAPP lawsuits based on protection of free speech through a court motion. If the dismissal motion is granted, defendants may recover legal fees and damages to the lawsuit.

“It’s unconscionable that these petty lawsuits have been successful in muzzling opposition in the past. Pennsylvanians should be able to speak freely without worrying about being silenced or getting saddled with legal costs,” said Bizzarro. “I’m grateful my colleagues in the General Assembly agree that it’s time to finally expand our SLAPP laws to protect our constitutional right to free speech.”

The legislation also contains a SLAPP back provision, so if a party uses the SLAPP motion in a frivolous manner, the court will award legal fees and costs to the non-moving party.

House Bill 1466 passed the Senate Friday after it unanimously passed the House in October. It now heads to Gov. Josh Shapiro’s desk to be signed into law.