FL GOP bill would 'allow government officials to harass and bankrupt' opposers with defamation lawsuits
Story by Maya Boddie 2/22/2023
Florida GOP State Rep. Alex Andrade proposed a bill that would simplify the process for fellow Republican officials, like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, to file defamation lawsuits against media and other "critics," Truthout reports.
|Florida Governor Ron DeSantis
First Amendment lawyer and Director of Advocacy for Freedom of the Press Foundation (FPF), Seth Stern said," DeSantis continues to make clear his disdain for freedom of speech and the press and to prioritize censoring dissent over governing."
If Governor DeSantis, a Harvard Law graduate, thinks the statute is constitutional, he's forgotten what he was taught", said First Amendment attorney, Floyd Abrams. "If he's looking for a way to offer the Supreme Court a case in which it might reconsider settled law, who knows. But what's clear is that it is today and tomorrow facially at odds with the First Amendment."
Stern noted the bill would "would do nothing for ordinary Floridians but would allow government officials and celebrities to harass and even bankrupt their critics with expensive litigation," which media attorney Matthew Schafer describes as "a gift to the ruling class."
Tampa Bay Times reports that if the bill becomes law, Florida residents could "sue publishers over alleged defamatory content in any county where they accessed the material."
Stern offered further insight into why the legislation would hinder First Amendment rights, calling on the state legislature to "reject this political stunt," as residents "should not tolerate their governor's experiments in authoritarianism in their name and at their expense."
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple during his roundtable event earlier this month:
DeSantis, an ace practitioner of GOP media-bashing rhetoric, showed why some critics view him as a more dangerous embodiment of Trump’s two-bit authoritarianism.”
Could I and other bloggers be at risk for a defamation lawsuits (frivolous) for speaking out against Ron DeSantis?