TITLE 9
Courts and Civil Procedure–Procedure Generally

CHAPTER 9-33
Limits on Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation

SECTION 9-33-2


§ 9-33-2 Conditional immunity.

(a) A party's exercise of his or her right of petition or of free speech under the United States or Rhode Island constitutions in connection with a matter of public concern shall be conditionally immune from civil claims, counterclaims, or cross-claims. Such immunity will apply as a bar to any civil claim, counterclaim, or cross-claim directed at petition or free speech as defined in subsection (e) of this section, except if the petition or free speech constitutes a sham. The petition or free speech constitutes a sham only if it is not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action, result, or outcome, regardless of ultimate motive or purpose. The petition or free speech will be deemed to constitute a sham as defined in the previous sentence only if it is both:

(1) Objectively baseless in the sense that no reasonable person exercising the right of speech or petition could realistically expect success in procuring the government action, result, or outcome, and

(2) Subjectively baseless in the sense that it is actually an attempt to use the governmental process itself for its own direct effects. Use of outcome or result of the governmental process shall not constitute use of the governmental process itself for its own direct effects.

(b) The court shall stay all discovery proceedings in the action upon the filing of a motion asserting the immunity established by this section; provided, however, that the court, on motion and after a hearing and for good cause shown, may order that specified discovery be conducted. The stay of discovery shall remain in effect until notice of entry of the order ruling on the motion.

(c) The immunity established by this section may be asserted by an appropriate motion or by other appropriate means under the applicable rules of civil procedure.

(d) If the court grants the motion asserting the immunity established by this section, or if the party claiming lawful exercise of his or her right of petition or of free speech under the United States or Rhode Island constitutions in connection with a matter of public concern is, in fact, the eventual prevailing party at trial, the court shall award the prevailing party costs and reasonable attorney's fees, including those incurred for the motion and any related discovery matters. The court shall award compensatory damages and may award punitive damages upon a showing by the prevailing party that the responding party's claims, counterclaims, or cross-claims were frivolous or were brought with an intent to harass the party or otherwise inhibit the party's exercise of its right to petition or free speech under the United States or Rhode Island constitution. Nothing in this section shall affect or preclude the right of the party claiming lawful exercise of his or her right of petition or of free speech under the United States or Rhode Island constitutions to any remedy otherwise authorized by law.

(e) As used in this section, "a party's exercise of its right of petition or of free speech" shall mean any written or oral statement made before or submitted to a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other governmental proceeding; any written or oral statement made in connection with an issue under consideration or review by a legislative, executive, or judicial body, or any other governmental proceeding; or any written or oral statement made in connection with an issue of public concern.

History of Section.
(P.L. 1993, ch. 354, § 1; P.L. 1993, ch. 448, § 1; P.L. 1995, ch. 386, § 1.)