Endorsement Of S.3518, The Speech Act

By Floyd Abrams
Sunday, July 11th, 2010 @ 5:37PM

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Re: S. 3518

Dear Chairman Leahy and Ranking Member Sessions:

I write to you to endorse S. 3518, the “Securing and Protecting our Enduring and Established Constitutional Heritage,” also known as the SPEECH Act. The passage of this bill, which does not attempt to change the law of any foreign nations but to insure that our citizens are protected against losing their rights afforded by the First Amendment, is critical to protecting American authors and publishers from the imposition of speech-destructive foreign libel laws.

Dozens of writers on national security, health and safety have already been sued by foreign “libel tourists” -legal forum shoppers who exploit claimant-friendly libel laws, using them as tools to intimidate and silence reporters, bloggers, and others. This phenomenon poses grave threats to the American public and to the world at large – chilling research and scholarship and preventing the flow of information on critical issues of science, safety, security, and others. This threat looms larger with the increasing globalization of news and internet writing, inviting courts with low thresholds for jurisdiction to hear almost any case brought before them.

With the SPEECH Act, Congress will thaw the chilling effect of these foreign lawsuits by barring enforcement of foreign libel judgments against Americans unless they meet with American standards of liberty and due process; permitting Americans to obtain declaratory relief of the unenforceability ofnonconforrning foreign judgments; and permitting the recovery of attorneys’ fees in certain instances.

“Libel tourism” has resulted in Americans having their free speech rights compromised or even destroyed. I congratulate you for introducing the SPEECH Act, and urge you to continue to lead in the effort to protect all Americans from being subjected to laws that simply do not recognize the centrality of free speech.

I have written about this subject in various publications and I take the liberty of sending an attachment and links for three of my articles bearing on the issue.

Respectfully submitted,

Floyd Abrams

The Honorable Patrick J. Leahy
Chairman Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Ranking Member Committee on the Judiciary U.S. Senate
Washington, DC 20510

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Categories: Free Speech & Libel Tourism, Supporting Free Speech