Endorsement Of S.3518 [The Speech Act]

By Letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee | by Michael B. Mukasey, ACD Board Member
Friday, July 9th, 2010 @ 5:40PM

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The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. Senate
Russell Senate Office Building
SR-433
Washington, DC 20510-4502

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Ranking Member
Committee on the Judiciary
U.S. Senate
Russell Senate Office Building
SR-335
Washington, DC 20510-0104

Dear Chairman Leahy and Senator Sessions:

I understand that the Judiciary Committee is about to consider S 3518, a bill styled the SPEECH Act, drafted to curtail in this country the effects of a practice known as libel tourism. I write to endorse the bill and to stress its importance to (i) the free speech and debate that makes our democratic system possible, and (ii) public discourse on subjects vital to our security as a nation.

For far too long people who write and speak about important issues to an audience that includes citizens of this country have been put at risk of financial ruin from libel lawsuits filed in foreign jurisdictions by plaintiffs who claim injury from such writing or speech. These plaintiffs select jurisdictions where truth is not recognized as a defense to a libel claim, and indeed where truth of a claimed libel may be found to increase damages. This has the effect of punishing those whose ideas are of use to our democratic processes, and of inhibiting others whose ideas might be of use but who are reluctant to express them for fear of suit in a foreign jurisdiction where their words might be published and become the object of a lawsuit.

The subject legislation will assure that the plaintiffs who seek to inhibit speech in this fashion cannot use the courts of this country to do so. I believe that it is impossible to overstate the importance of such legislation in today’s world, where the truth can not only make us free but in fact keep us alive, and where words and ideas cross national borders with greater ease than ever before. I am grateful that you have supported this bill. Please feel free to share this letter with other members of the Committee, and more generally if you think it helpful.

Yours sincerely,

Michael B. Mukasey

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Categories: Free Speech & Libel Tourism, Supporting Free Speech