Maryland Orange
Subgrades  
Covered Speech: C-
Anti-SLAPP Procedures: D-
Subscores  
Covered Speech: 50 out of 100 points
Anti-SLAPP Procedures: 10 out of 100 points
Detailed Scoring on Anti-SLAPP Procedures  
Suspension of Court Proceedings Upon an Anti-SLAPP Motion: 10 of 20 points
Burden of Proof on Plaintiff to Defeat an Anti-SLAPP Motion: 0 of 12 points
Right to an Immediate Appeal: 0 of 25 points
Award of Costs and Attorney Fees: 0 of 40 points
Expansive Statutory Interpretation Instruction to Courts: 0 of 3 points

How to Improve Maryland’s Score

The most important part of anti-SLAPP law is the scope of speech that the statute covers. After all, strong statutory procedural protections are of no help to a speaker if the scope of the statute excludes the speech at issue.

The fundamental flaw in Maryland’s anti-SLAPP statute is it covers too little speech. If Maryland simply expanded the scope of its statute to cover the same kinds of speech recommended by the Uniform Law Commission’s model Act, the overall grade would rise to C+.

The Uniform Law Commission’s model law protects any speech about a matter of public importance in any forum. The model is described at some length in the full report and is available here.

Maryland’s law also has weak statutory procedures to protect speakers facing weak or frivolous lawsuits. It should consider adopting the Uniform Law Commission’s model law in its entirety.

State Anti-SLAPP Statute

Maryland’s anti-SLAPP statute[1] protects communications with a government body or to the public on any matter within the authority of government or on any issue of public concern. However, this brief and unusually worded statute also limits the scope of speech it covers: it defines a SLAPP suit in part as one that is “[b]rought in bad faith” and “[i]ntended to inhibit or inhibits the exercise of rights under the First Amendment.” A defendant facing a SLAPP suit may move to stay all court proceedings until the matter is resolved; notably, this option supplies a considerably weaker tool than many other anti-SLAPP statutes, which provide for mandatory suspension of proceedings. The defendant may also move to dismiss the suit, in which case the court must hold a hearing on the matter as soon as practicable. Unlike many anti-SLAPP statutes, the Maryland statute does not shift the burden of proof on an anti-SLAPP motion to the respondent at any point; furthermore, the statute contains no provisions for interlocutory appeal of an anti-SLAPP motion order or for shifting of costs and attorney fees to the prevailing party.

[1] Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. § 5-807.

Dan Greenberg & David Keating

https://www.ifs.org/author/dgreenburg/

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