Law & Principles

Coalition thanks Stitt for free-speech stand

May 26, 2023

Trent England

A broad coalition of groups that support freedom of speech and the press has sent a letter of thanks to Gov. Kevin Stitt for his veto of HB 1236. The measure would have weakened the Oklahoma Citizen Participation Act, which provides legal recourse against frivolous lawsuits that are intended to chill free speech.

Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall and state Sen. Greg McCortney sponsored HB 1236. The Speaker attempted to override Gov. Stitt’s veto, but the measure failed to receive even a simple majority of votes—far short of the supermajority required.

The text of the letter is below.

Dear Governor Stitt:

The undersigned organizations, which represent a broad coalition across the political spectrum, thank you for vetoing House Bill 1236.

The Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act is one of the nation’s best anti-SLAPP laws. HB 1236 would significantly weaken that law’s protections for citizens faced with expensive and meritless lawsuits (known as SLAPPs, or Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) aimed at silencing their speech.

The bill would remove current law’s requirement that a speaker who successfully files an anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss a meritless case be awarded fees to recover litigation costs. This is a vital deterrent against SLAPP lawsuits. Without an award, a defendant might win the lawsuit, but still suffer financial devastation from costs owed to their lawyers.

Every state should follow Oklahoma’s lead to reduce the punishment that unscrupulous litigants can mete out to their critics and adversaries. Automatic costs and attorney’s fee awards do just that. Importantly, such fee-shifting also enables more attorneys to represent those with limited means fighting a SLAPP.

Thank you, Governor Stitt, for safeguarding the Oklahoma Citizens Participation Act that protects citizens’ rights to speech, press, assembly, and petition.


Institute for Free Speech

Joined by:

American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma

Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma

Authors Guild

Better Business Bureau serving Central Oklahoma

Better Business Bureau serving Eastern Oklahoma

International Association of Better Business Bureaus

Center for Biological Diversity

Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression

James Madison Center for Free Speech

Motion Picture Association

National Coalition Against Censorship

National Taxpayers Union

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs

OCPA Action

Oklahomans for Fairness

Oklahomans For Life

People for Opportunity

Public Participation Project

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Society of Professional Journalists