Litigants with deep pockets sometimes play poker with lawsuits. They will file suit against people they want to intimidate or silence hoping that the plaintiffs are scared enough to simply stop criticizing them. The suits aren’t intended to succeed on their merits, only to stifle another party’s first amendment rights.

Governor Cuomo on Tuesday signed a bill into law that could significantly hamper frivolous lawsuits brought by powerful people and corporations that have been used in this way to stifle free speech. The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Helene Weinstein and Senator Brad Hoylman, is known as “SLAPP,” which stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” 

"For decades, powerful men like Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein have abused our justice system to silence, intimidate, and impoverish their critics with frivolous lawsuits known as SLAPPs,” Senator Hoylman said in July when the bill was passed. “Today New York slaps back.”

About 30 states have enacted anti-SLAPP laws; New York’s own laws were much weaker until the governor signed the Weinstein/Hoylman bill into law.

Capital Tonight host Susan Arbetter spoke with Hoylman about the SLAPP Act, as well as his decision to join a clinical trial for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.