Law & Principles

Staff | May 18, 2023

OCPA Urges Gov. Stitt to Veto HB 1236, Resist Billionaires’ and Big Corporations’ Bullying


OKLAHOMA CITY (May 18, 2023)—Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs President Jonathan Small today urged Gov. Kevin Stitt to stand up for free speech by vetoing House Bill 1236.

The Oklahoma Citizens Protection Act, commonly referred to as the state’s anti-SLAPP law (SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuit against public participation”), has for years protected Oklahomans against frivolous lawsuits that seek to silence political speech.

HB 1236, pushed by powerful special interests, would undermine those free-speech protections by making an award of attorneys fees for a prevailing defendant permissive rather than mandatory.

“Special interests who have for years tried to silence Oklahoma conservative voices have now asked lawmakers to make it easier to stifle conservative views,” Small said.

Under current law, a defendant sued for defamation who wins a motion to dismiss asserting a First Amendment privilege is entitled to costs, attorney fees, and a sanction “sufficient to deter the party who brought the legal action.”

One of the more notable free-speech cases involving the Oklahoma Citizens Protection Act was a lawsuit, now entering its fourth year, filed by Paycom Payroll, LLC for defamation. The lawsuit relates to an article published by OCPA that briefly mentioned an open letter written by Paycom CEO Chad Richison in response to COVID-19. The suit was dismissed under the anti-SLAPP law, but the decision was ultimately reversed by the Oklahoma Supreme Court because the trial judge did not dismiss the suit within the 30-day timeframe outlined by the statute.

“The special interests lobbying for this bill are saying the quiet part out loud: they want to bully opposing voices with no accountability,” Small said. “Governor Stitt has never been one to give in to bully tactics, and OCPA encourages him to veto this bill.”


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